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Brighter prospects for tourism hub as plans for port opposed

BUSIA
By | February 20th 2011

By PATRICK BEJA and NGUMBAO KITHI

Mombasa County is the economic hub and bedrock of politics at the Coast. It is made up of four constituencies –Mvita, Changamwe, Likoni and Kisauni.

If Parliament endorses a controversial report by the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC), Nyali and Jomvu would be the newest constituencies in the county that fall under Kenya’s second largest town.

Nyali has been hived off from Kisauni and Jomvu is carved from the larger Changamwe.

Mombasa has remained the gateway to East Africa due to its strategic Kilindini harbour that serves the economies of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda Burundi, Southern Sudan, eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Tanzania.

And with reports the port of Mombasa is up for privatisation, political temperatures in the county and beyond are high with legislators from the region spoiling for a political fight to have the plans shelved.

MPs from across the political divide led by Garsen MP Danson Mungatana are drafting a Motion to be tabled in Parliament to oppose the Government’s plan. It is to be seconded by Kisauni MP Hassan Joho.

The MPs argue the port is well equipped and posts huge profits of up to Sh4.5 billion a year and there is no reason to privatise it.

Private sector finance

MPs from the county, Najib Balala (Mvita), Ramadhan Kajembe (Changamwe), Masoud Mwahima (Likoni) and Joho say the port falls within their jurisdiction and they cannot let it go into private hands.

"It amounts to disrespect for anybody in Government to purport to privatise the port without consulting Coast leaders particularly from this county," Kajembe says.

Trade minister and Matuga MP Mr Chirau Mwakwere also says he will not support plans to privatise a well performing port. The fear is that privatising the port could claim about 4,000 jobs out of the 7,330 at the KPA.

Recent reports by the Privatisation Commission stating that Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) that manages Mombasa port was among State corporations listed for privatisaton united Coast MPs in opposing the plans.

The genesis of the controversy is Kenya Gazette notice number 70 of August 14, 2009, which says some parts of the ports would be privatised.

According to the gazette notice, privatisation of the KPA container terminal would enhance Kenya’s regional competitiveness and facilitate investment and economic growth.

The container terminal boasts of 60 per cent of the port’s business.

In the notice, Government favours outsourcing of stevedoring services. It is meant to improve efficiency in delivery of services through mobilisation of private sector financial and management resources.

Government also favours development of berths 11 to 14 for capacity expansion through mobilisation of private sector capital and management resources.

Another facility lined up for privatisation is the KPA Eldoret Inland Container Depot (ICD) whose construction was completed in 1994.

But Coast MPs say the Mombasa port and the proposed Lamu port are part of resources under the six Coast counties and should not be privatised.

"I do not support even the privatisation of Lamu port once constructed," Mwakwere says.

Port stakeholders, including the Dock Workers Union are set to attend a consultative meeting called by the Privatisation Commission on February 28 in Mombasa.

Free port

Mombasa port is a major entry point for the country and the East African region and plans to develop a free trade zone at Dongo Kundu near the port is seen as a boost to the area as a trade hub.

Already plans are at an advanced stage to put up the free port and stop the culture of Kenyans going to Dubai to buy vehicles.

Apart from being the gateway to East Africa, Mombasa is the only town that boasts of some of the best tourist hotels in the world.

The town has one huge challenge as the local authority has turned the roads in the central business district into a huge market for retailers and hawkers. The council of Imams and preachers of Kenya has asked the council to clean the town.

The treasurer of the Imams, Sheikh Hassan Omar, has urged the council to clear hawkers and create a new future for Mombasa. But Mombasa mayor Abubakar Mohadhar has called for more time to remove the hawkers from the streets.

The county will soon have the Dongo Kundu by-pass from the South Coast to the Mombasa-Nairobi highway to avoid the Likoni ferry and the long hours wasted while crossing the sea.

Mombasa is unique because it has high humidity and scorching sun, the most ideal for tourists coming from Europe and other places to relax.

Mombasa boasts the Moi International Airport that has boosted the number of tourist arrivals due to direct flights from Europe and Asia to the town.

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