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The untold story of Mama Ngina Waterfront Park




There are two sites in Mombasa that undoubtedly receive hundreds of thousands of local and international tourists every year.

Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach and Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, which coincidentally are named after the First President and his wife respectively, are now the talk of the town in the coastal city of Mombasa.

The national government has allocated a whopping Sh660 million to regenerate the two sites to international standards and attract more tourists to the region.

Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, which has benefited from the big chunk of Sh460 million, holds the rich history of Mombasa town that dates back to the 15th century.

Among the features the project aims to establish are leisure walks, souvenir shopping, entertainment, sporting and other leisure activities, foods and beverages, and relaxation areas.

It will also include Little Theatre, a cultural heritage centre, to provide a platform for exhibition of the coast’s diverse cultural practices and foster heritage.



While many people know more about Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach because of the luxury hotels nearby, Mama Ngina has remained a sleeping giant.

The 26-acre land is only famed for being a place where tourists, both local and international, can relax and watch the world-class ships passing by as they arrive and leave the port of Mombasa.

Little historical information is available for this area that lies magnificently facing the Likoni crossing channel and has Kenya’s oldest golf course, the Mombasa Golf Club.

Last month (January 7), President Uhuru Kenyatta led a high-profile delegation in commissioning the Sh460 million regeneration of the Mama Ngina Waterfront Park.

Present were Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, several Cabinet Secretaries and Mombasa leaders.

It was during this event that Joho spilled the beans that part of the park has been grabbed, urging the President to intervene.

“Mr President, we still have a challenge with this area. Some two parcels of land have been grabbed from the area,” Joho said.

Tourism CS Najib Balala said he was forced to unceremoniously quit being a mayor of the defunct Mombasa Council some 20 years ago because of the grabbing of Mama Ngina Park.

“I had to leave office because I could not stand seeing public land being taken away,” he said.

The CS said Mama Ngina holds the rich history of Mombasa and should thus be preserved in its entirety.

“This area belongs to the native Wakilindini. The Likoni channel, which is also known as the Kilindini channel, got its name from the native Wakilindini,” Balala said.

The National Museums of Kenya, who are the custodian of Kenya’s archeological and heritage sites, gazetted the Mama Ngina Waterfront Park in 2005 to preserve it.



According to information at the NMK, Mama Ngina Watefront Park is as old as Fort Jesus. The fight for Mombasa Island (Mvita) is believed to have taken place on this site, before the natives (Wakilindini) moved northwards to Old Town and Majengo area.

The battle of Mombasa was between the Portuguese and the natives, who were opposing this foreign invasion by the white people.

The Arabs had already set base in the coastal town of Mombasa by then and were ruling the island. They led the locals against the Portuguese invasion.

The Portuguese were against the slave trade that was being done by the Arabs then.

“It is believed that the Wakilindiini might have been driven out by the Portuguese in the 15th century, as supported by the presence of St Joseph Fortress, a nameless fortress, a Portuguese Redoubt at the Mama Ngina site,” reads part of report from NMK.

Hundreds of thousands of the Swahili natives (Wakilindini) lost their lives on these grounds of Mama Ngina, when they were bombarded by the Portuguese from their canons in the ships.

Some Swahili natives still call Mama Ngina site Mizimule (A place of spirits/ghosts) because of the lives lost on that site and the presence of the many baobab trees.




NLC chair Dr Muhammad Swazuri says Mama Ngina Waterfront Park is a classic example of forgotten history.

On the furthest end of Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, the area behind the Coast Police Headquarters, lies the untold story of Mombasa Island, Swazuri explains.

He says the ruins of a church, St Johns ACK, believed to be the first one in Mombasa built by the Portuguese, are still standing on a cliff at Mama Ngina Waterfront Park behind the police headquarters.

Next to these ruins, Swazuri explains, a fortress named St Joseph and another unnamed Portuguese redoubt still stand after four centuries.

“We have underground tunnels and caves on this cliff at Mama Ngina that were first used by Arabs during the slave period as holding grounds before the slaves were sold abroad,” Swazuri says.

Later on, after the Portuguese invasion, these tunnels were turned to underground bunkers, whereby the Portuguese used to hide and stage attacks on the Arabs and natives.

The tunnels are now being used as shrines and some as a hiding place for criminals.

This old St Joseph Fort at Mama Ngina was later abandoned before the Portuguese set a new base near the Old Town. This is after they built Fort Jesus between 1593 and 1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the old port of Mombasa.

Fort Jesus is one of the most outstanding and well-preserved examples of 16th century Portuguese military fortification.

Back to Mama Ngina Waterfront Park. On its stretch also lies the Mombasa Golf Club, which was built in 1911, when the British had invaded Mombasa and set a protectorate.

Just a short distance from Mombasa Golf Club is the Mombasa State House, which was built in 1879 as the Government House, some eight years before the construction of Nairobi State House in 1907.

Around this area also stands the Light House, which was used for ship navigation by the Portuguese, Mbaraki Pillar behind Nakumatt Likoni, and baobab trees believed to be over 400 years old.



In the 1970s, Swazuri says, the Kenyan government issued a directive to preserve the Mama Ngina Waterfront Park.

However, between 1985 and 2012, there was a scramble to divide the 26-acre land to tycoons keen to put up hotels and other businesses.

According to the NLC, some 13 private companies and individuals subdivided 20 of the 26 acres among themselves.

“We now have only six acres left for the public. However, the good thing is that this subdivision of Mama Ngina Park is only on paper. A big chunk of the land is still open to the public. Only 2.3 acres have been fenced,” Swazuri says.

He says the two fenced plots, identified as Plot 408 and Plot 1018, occupy 2.3 acres, measuring 1.5 acres and 0.8 acres.

Next to Plot 1018 is where the ruins of St Johns ACK church, St Joseph Fortress, a redoubt and a navigation pillar are still standing to date.

 “We are giving notice to the title holders of the 13 parcels of land to give us the ownership documents to learn how they acquired the land. They should also prepare to leave this land within 90 days,” Swazuri directed.

The walls around Plot 408 and 1018 have already been demolished by the Mombasa government following the directive.

Mombasa Lands executive Edward Nyale, who led the operation to demolish the perimeter walls around the two plots, says they have to make sure public land is preserved.

“This area is very rich in history of Mombasa, which has remained untold,” he says.

“If we allow people to grab it, many years to come we shall not have anything to tell our children. Therefore, the Mombasa government would like to preserve this area for generations to come.”

The President’s Sh460 million regeneration project of Mama Ngina Watefront Park will now go on unopposed, Swazuri says.

He says the entire area is public land and any person who claims ownership got the papers in corrupt ways. 

Swazuri promised to publish 13 names of the companies and individuals who were allocated land at Mama Ngina.



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

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Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

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Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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