I grew up in Mombasa and with the current unfortunate turns of events with unplanned building, poor sanitation, inadequate leadership and ultimately disease outbreaks as a result of all these is just painful to watch.
The Mombasa I knew not too many years ago was what I would genuinely describe as Mombasa raha. Systems worked. There were puddles of stagnant water here and there when it rained but nothing like the raging floods we see after even just one night of rains. There were normal fresh water shortages but nothing so severe that it ended up in disease and death.
I don’t know when exactly the rain started beating Mombasa but the woes that befell it I’d say are a combination of increasing population, lack of commensurate development, and good old corruption. Many voices are coming up and especially through the formidable social media and Mombasa’s problems can no longer go undiscussed.
To shield themselves from any criticism, the Mombasa County brands those that dare raise their voice as mahasidi – people working for the enemies of development or paid charlatans without regard for the validity of the complaint. This we know is not the case because the concerns are valid and visible for all to see.
The same ‘mahasidi’ fate is likely to befall the #MombasaDebate where citizens are discussing real issues that the county Government needs to fix.
We recently saw a lavish party and launch event thrown by the Governor for the Mombasa Vision 2035 that was broadcast live on national TV. The leadership seems to have decided that we need skyscrapers everywhere. No plan has been communicated and discussed before the launch of #MV2035 and no feedback or input from the citizens who are the intended beneficiaries. The project, to turn Mombasa into a concrete jungle in the next 20 years is not people driven.
As all this was happening, Mombasa is in the middle of Hepatitis A crisis, one which is a result of the lack of water experienced in the county for over 3 months now. The water crisis started when the Coast Water Board disconnected 3 coastal counties over non-payment of water bills.
Kilifi and Kwale cleared their bills within a month, Mombasa decided to play hard ball. Sadly, the result is an outbreak that has affected hundreds of people. This hepA is most likely spreading due to the lack of clean safe water. As a result, more people are turning to bottled water from dubious sources, boreholes and water tankers whose source is not clear.
The losers in all this are the citizens. The big beneficiaries are people trading in water, whose price is now up 300% in some places. Are the real beneficiaries of the water shortage also in county government? Why the laxity in ending the crisis with the same speed Kwale and Kilifi counties did?
In his response to the crisis, Governor Joho showed no clear plan to solve the crisis himself. Instead he chose to magnify the enormity of the problem and at the same time play victim. In all this, where are the citizens supposed to turn to?
Mombasa County water issue will apparently need 80 billion shillings against a budget allocation of 5 billion. A ridiculous amount. Consider, the pipeline from Lamu to Turkana will cost 250 billion. The figures are more absurd when you consider that Vision 2035 needs only 33 billion to start. Skyscrapers or water? Nothing wrong with grand ambition for the future but not in the face of ridiculously upside down priorities, and certainly not in the face of near denial of the dire needs of the citizens. Not in the face of disease outbreaks due to lack of clean water.
How do the city planners completely disregard the most basic rights of our existence; water.
In short, the Governor kicked the ball of his court, to no one in particular.
It’s a 50 year problem that cannot be solved in 3 years. Question is, how many years will it take to solve then? Tell us that Governor Joho.