What you need to know:
- The park is situated at the site of one of the deadliest terror attacks on Kenyan soil. A bomb loaded on a truck went off at the scene in August 7, 1998, killing 218.
A donation of as little as Sh100 is enough, the management of the August 7th Memorial Park tells Kenyans. Any amount, they add, will go a long way towards keeping the space open to the public.
A fundraiser they launched online on change.co.ke had raised Sh33,910 from 77 people by yesterday. It will be running for 31 more days and the management hopes to raise more.
“We need your help,” they state on the fundraising description. “We’re calling on Kenyans to help us keep our doors open and save this beacon of hope and peace. No donation is too small or too insignificant.”
The Sunday Nation visited the park on Thursday to take stock of its situation. Surprisingly lush and clean in the middle of a concrete jungle, the park had quite a number of visitors under the intermittent noon sun. Some sat pensively on the green benches, sipping one drink or other. There were some holding discussions. A woman sat on the grass under a shade, seemingly lost in her thoughts.
“You can sleep here with your phone and everything. You will find it right next to you (when you wake up). People feel safe when they come here. And that’s what the city is lacking: safe public spaces, ” Ms Natasha Nyambura, the general manager of the park, described the place. “Once you enter here, you’re safe. Our guards are always patrolling. We reserve the right of admission; so there are people you won’t find inside here,” she added.
The park is situated at the site of one of the deadliest terror attacks on Kenyan soil. A bomb loaded on a truck went off at the scene in August 7, 1998, killing 218.
Afterwards, the US government — whose embassy stood on part of the property — and the Kenyan government donated the land to a trust. Opened on August 7, 2001, it is now a public park that also has a museum and a monument to remember victims of the terror attack.
In the museum, items like glass shards surgically removed from victims of the attack, some of the items worn by those who died and charred gloves of a rescue official on duty that day, plus a documentary played on demand, deliver a sobering message on the goriness of the day. Photos of top dignitaries who have previously visited the site, from Barack Obama to Joe Biden to John Kerry, are also displayed on the walls of the museum.
The park and the museum are supervised by the August 7th Memorial Trust that comprises 11 volunteer trustees chaired by Mr James Kiragu from the property management firm Kiragu & Mwangi Ltd. Entrepreneur Chris Kirubi is also among the trustees. The trustees’ board also has representatives from the Kenya and US governments and from Co-operative Bank.
The day-to-day operations are overseen by a team of six led by Ms Nyambura. Although it has previously received grants from the US government, the trust has been largely self-sustaining.
“The public misconception that we always have to clear — and it’s becoming more and more challenging for us — is having to explain to people that we’re not funded by the Kenyan government or the US embassy,” Ms Nyambura said.
Its sources of income include the Sh30 gate fees people pay to enter, the fees it charges for the memorial museum, hiring out its venue, advertising boards at the edge of the facility, a rented out shop at the edge of the park and the two conference rooms inside the museum building.
But since the onset of Covid-19, its revenue streams have been stifled, so much so that the management has taken the unprecedented step of appealing for donations. Due to restrictions on in-person meetings, they cannot hire out their meeting rooms and also have to limit the number of visitors in the park at any given time to just 100.
“Before Covid, on a really bad day we’d have about 250 visitors coming to the park. The number would go up to thousands over weekends,” said Ms Nyambura. “But now we are managing the numbers because of Covid.”
They had to close between May 2020 and February 2021, forcing them to dig deep into their accounts to stay afloat.
Most of their income goes towards paying an outsourced security firm and a landscaping company that ensures the “park maintains its ambience and aesthetic look”, according to Ms Nyambura. The trust is also engaged in mobilisation initiatives like the Peace Builders Kids’ Club. It was also involved in distributing foodstuff to slum dwellers in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, using funds raised by donors.
The 1998 terror attack is still a simmering issue in international politics. In April, Sudan — which had been placed in the US list of states that sponsor terrorism as a result of the attack — parted with $355 million to satisfy a deal that would have it removed from the list. The money will go towards compensating American victims of the attack and their families.