BY PETER KOMBE AND JACINTA KIMANI
Mombasa County business stakeholders have issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the government to withdraw its decision of transporting cargo via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from the port.
The business community has also threatened mass action as the only way if the government does not heed their demands.
Harriet Muganda, first business community secretary, accuses the local leadership of being silent over the issue because some of them are beneficiaries of the SGR directive.
She claims the order has negatively contributed to a drastic drop in business leading to losses of job opportunities to tens of hundreds of residents in the county.
“We used to work so well in the past but since the SGR started operations most of us have been laid off. No jobs! We are unable to pay our rent or raise school fees for our children,” she says.
According to her the SGR is gradually shifting the economy of Mombasa to other counties thus denying the county the much needed local revenue for its development activities.
Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid warns that Mombasa people will take to the streets if the government ignores them.
He urged the residents to remain firm in their stand saying as a united front they will be able to fight for their human rights.
“Viongozi wetu mko wapi. Hatutakubali kama wakaazi wa Mombasa (Local leaders where are you? We shall not allow that as Mombasa residents),” he adds accusing the leadership of abdicating their responsibilities of defending their electorates.
The director alleges the government decision to transport container cargo by SGR has paralyzed business not only in Mombasa but also the entire Coast region.
Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) rapid response officer Francis Auma says locals including the civil society will challenge the decision before a law court on the expiry of their ultimatum.
“As residents of the port city, we will challenge the government directive through the courts if it declines to rescind it and allow other players in the business,” he adds.
A lawyer Philip Jagero wants the government to reverse the directive saying its decision is unfavorable to many port users who will like to use other alternatives of transporting their cargo from point of entry.
Said he: “We don’t need this directive because it is discriminative to many port players who want to use alternative means of transport.”
The peaceful demonstration dubbed, Okoa Mombasa, brought together members of the business community, human rights activists, truck drivers, motorcyclists, matatu drivers and tuktuk operators on Monday (September 16, 2019).
On Friday (September 12) University of Nairobi presented an assessment report on the socio economic impact of the operationalization of the (SGR).
The report’s recommends policy alignment to allow market forces to operate freely to create a sustainable environment for other sector stakeholders and mitigate depletion in county GDP as a result of cargo evacuation among others.
When receiving the report, Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho called on a fair share of cargo transportation between SGR and other stakeholders.
“The investment at the port is bigger than SGR. We want to have a meaningful engagement so as to sort this problem which is threatening harmonious co-existence at the port,” he said and called for a national dialogue over the issue.