Storm over plan to privatise ports facilities

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

A section of Coast leaders have opposed plans by the national government to privatise key facilities at the Mombasa and Lamu ports.

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir said the proposal was a clear indication that the Kenya Kwanza government had taken the people of the Coast for a ride.

Nassir said no feasibility study was conducted to determine the viability of the plan, adding that the deal was opaque given that Coast leaders are in the dark over the matter.

"If they could sell the water in the Ocean, they would have done so. Hawawezi kubebwa kifalafala na bandari (they cannot fool us and take us for a ride)," said Nassir.

Nassir, who is pushing the national government to share the revenue generated from the port with Mombasa, said the privatisation would lead to job losses and adversely affect the county. "Let them know that our hospitality and traditions should not be mistaken to be weakness. Let them tell us Mombasa's take in the whole transaction," he said.

The national government is seeking to privatise key facilities at the two ports to raise in its bid to bolster the competitiveness of the ports.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Captain William Ruto has placed an international tender for the operation of key facilities at the Mombasa and Lamu ports.

In a notice dated September 6 this year, the KPA MD invited bidders to operate berths 11 to 14 at the Port of Mombasa, take over operations of berths one to three at Lamu Port, and also build a special economic zone in Lamu County. Nassir said he will not stop championing the interest of the people of Mombasa and Coast despite warnings from his friends that his stand will put him in trouble.

"What has the national government done for the people of Mombasa? We speak out against dictatorship," he said during a meeting in Mvita. Nassir, who was elected on the opposition ODM ticket, has had a close working relationship with President William Ruto and Cabinet Secretaries in the Kenya Kwanza regime, despite criticism from some of his key supporters.

The governor has defended the relationship, saying he must work with the national government to deliver his promises to Mombasa's people.

Other Coast leaders, who have criticised the planned privatisation of the facilities at the port, include Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, who said the government did not consult the region's leaders.

Faki said Coast leaders are also opposed to the unilateral decision by the government to have Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited (KPRL) taken over by Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).

Last week, Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir met Nassir to assure him that the takeover would be done through consultations and that it would benefit the economy and residents.

"What has shocked us is that bidders were invited to be considered for privatisation of some services at the port, yet we have not been consulted," said Faki. He said it is wrong for the government to come up with the privatisation idea without consulting the locals who have a say in line with the Constitution.

Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi said local leaders are not happy with the decision to privatise the port.

He said it was not in the interest of Coast people to have the port privatised yet it has been making profits.

"Mombasa port is managed efficiently, and at no time have we heard it has failed to pay its workers or send dividends to the government," said Mwinyi.

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