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The National Assembly is sidelining Coast locals from underway inquiries into the use of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which has killed their economy.

Okoa Mombasa and MUHURI are protesting.

Both are urging structured public participation, as demanded in the Constitution, hoping to escape the weirdest recession ever.  All are demanding forced SGR-only evacuation of cargo ceased.

The Departmental Committee on Transport, Public Works, and Housing has been inquiring privately since July 2020.

The committee is restricting meetings. Only state officials, MPs and carefully selected association and alliance are commenting.

Meetings are occurring in boardrooms. The sittings are lacking true reflection of the burden of economic slump facing the Coast. Open-air gatherings by tens of thousands of victims of government-backed economic sabotage are banned. Many victims are not unionised or linked to any workers’ association the committee is engaging with — instead, they suffer from the ripple effects, yet they are unheard.

On August 3, August House Clerk, Michael Sialai, scheduled another series of inquiries.

Even though elected leaders are participating, it is not clear whether their views to the committee are a representation of locals’ concerns, whom they are not consulting.

“As part of the inquiry, the committee must hold a meeting with Mombasa residents and members of Civil Society Organizations in the county over the subject (inquiry into SGR use),” Okoa Mombasa and MUHURI are telling Sialai, in a letter dated August 10.

“The meeting should be in Mombasa – and done before the committee produces its report.”

The committee’s findings will address the controversial SGR orders, Sialai claimed.

Coast historical economic injustices

Queries by two Mombasa lawmakers over SGR directives triggered the committee’s investigations, at least according to a July 3 letter by Sialai.

Mvita’s Abdulsawamad Nassir and Nyali’s Mohamed Ali questioned numerous SGR orders that transferred Mombasa port services to Nairobi and Nakuru, benefitting these economically better-off counties.

Nairobi and Nakuru are already enjoying decades-long booming economic conditions, ostensibly set-up by favourable government policies made since Independence, all by Presidents who had or continues to hold business interests in these jurisdictions.

But government’s SGR polices lack public input. It is affecting Coast more than pro-presidency counties. The regulations are idling most Mombasa-owned fleets, firing thousands of tuckers, and slumping the port city economy by at least Sh300 billion since 2017.

Thousands of truck owners and drivers are no longer hauling cargo from the port.

Clearing and forwarding services in Mombasa are redundant. Related sectors like spare parts dealers, mechanics, truck washes, accommodations, restaurants food vendors, among others, are suffering.

The jobless – and thousands risking equally devastating fate – are coming from Coast and towns along Mombasa-Nairobi highway. But the committee is not consulting them to revive their economy or halt the disruptive orders all at once.

Okoa Mombasa, MUHURI protesting

Parliament has since suspended the SGR directives. Indications, however, show this could be short-lived. The government has been violating Parliament rulings or court orders against projects they have an enormous interest in, especially those whose constructions are causing widespread fury because of inflated bills.

Truckers are already reporting government-engineered obstacles – like delayed cargo clearance and forced use of KRA’s container tracking system, which is in short supply – that keep emerging, frustrating seamless cargo trucking.

Okoa Mombasa and MUHURI are protesting to clerk Sialai.

They are citing contravention of Article 174 of the Constitution. The law is supporting devolution by promoting social and economic development and provision of proximate, easily accessible services. It means Coast must first benefit from its natural resources – sea, port, harbour and many more.

Parliament must consult with Coastal residents in developing plans to restore and revitalize the economy, the groups are saying in the letter.

“This plan should include but not be limited to the allocation of an economic stimulus package to be determined jointly by all stakeholders,” the two are proposing.

The duo is also pushing the government to return port services it took from Mombasa, immediately.

“The object of devolution requires in Article 174 (h) facilitation of decentralization of State organs, their functions, and services from capital, Nairobi. The SGR directives recentralize port services to Nairobi in violation of the Constitution,” Okoa Mombasa and MUHURI are challenging.