When it was refurbished in 2019, then-President Uhuru Kenyatta envisioned an iconic world waterfront to attract both local and international tourists to enjoy the serenity, cool breeze, and savour Swahili cuisine.
The largest public park in the country’s coastal region sitting on 26 acres overlooking the Indian Ocean can comfortably hold up to 25,000 people and has been a common venue for both local and national events.
However, five years after its reopening, the Sh460 million Mama Ngina Waterfront Park is turning into a brothel, with locals thronging the area to trade sexual favours.
This was revealed by the manager of the establishment, Mr Ali Noor, who accused a section of Kenyans of turning the recreational park into a 'brothel'.
Mr Noor urged the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Tourism and Wildlife, which had visited the park, to ensure tourist police are deployed to the area to boost security and bring back the waterfront’s diminishing glory.
“People come with their cars and park them at the park for 'sexcapades'. This is the norm and it is difficult for us to deal with the issue. This place is frequented by many people, especially during weekends,” said Mr Noor.
An official explained to MPs how they unearthed the crime after they spotted couples parking their cars, which would then begin shaking after some time.
He said this prompted police officers deployed in the area to begin ‘knocking on the windows of suspicious vehicles’ to stop the indecent acts.
“We have caught many people in the act. Some people come here with ill intentions, including criminals who come here to cause harm to revellers. It is hard for the police manning this facility to know good and bad people. But dirty things happen here, including those who use their vehicles as brothels,” said Mr Noor.
However, he said the cases have decreased with increased patrols in the park and after a police post was set up in the area.
“Since police began patrolling near the parking lot, the cases have decreased drastically,” added Mr Noor.
However, the committee on Tourism and Wildlife warned police over the harassment of visitors to the area.
The committee, which was on a five-day inspection visit of flagship projects under the Ministry of Wildlife, Tourism, and Heritage, called out police officers manning the waterfront for harassing revellers.
Led by its chairman, Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki, the committee said the security officers have no business involving themselves in personal issues in private cars.
His Lamu West counterpart Ms Ruweida Obo, said many tourists love visiting the place to chew khat, watch as vessels pass through the Likoni channel, and enjoy the breeze. However, in recent months many have been shying away due to police harassment.
“We have received complaints from the public over harassment by the police whenever they visit this park. This should stop. At times, police officers forced the revellers to open their car windows, and peep to see the occupants of the private vehicle,” said Ms Obo before adding: “What if someone is carrying a side chick?”
She narrated how lovers are always arrested, handcuffed and dragged into police car boots like criminals.
However she said due to the shame of being arrested with a side chick, many married people prefer paying off the police.
“They don’t want the shame because of the circumstance they have been found in. You become a slave of the police and accept the crimes. This has forced many people to look for other places to hide with their lovers while engaging in extramarital affairs because Mama Ngina Waterfront is no longer a haven for married couples sourcing lovers,” said Ms Obo.
The MPs applauded Ms Obo for defending men taking their lovers to the park from being shamed due to engaging in extramarital affairs.
However, acting County Commissioner Ronald Mwiwawi said police officers have boost security in the area by enhancing patrols.
He said the police post in the area has further boosted security and dealing with criminals who had found a haven in the area.
Other MPs including Innocent Mugabe (Likuyani), Abdi Khamis Chome (Voi), and Wanjiku John Njuguna (Kiambaa), said the park should be spruced up to attract more tourists and return it to its lost glory.
Tourism Principal Secretary John Ololtuaa said police officers have boosted security.
“However there is more we must improve to boost security,” said Mr Ololtuaa.
The park receives between 400 and 600 guests a day but during the weekend the number doubles to 1,000. The facility is manned by both police officers and National Youth Service.