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The untold story of Mama Ngina Waterfront Park

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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.

 

SLEEPING GIANT

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.

 

BATTLE OF MOMBASA

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.

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FORGOTTEN HISTORY

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.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR LAND 

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.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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