14 February 2019

Kenya: Historic Fort Jesus Could Collapse as Contractor Goes Missing

Photo: Nairobi News
The historic Fort Jesus in Mombasa.

The future of the historic Fort Jesus hangs in the balance as the construction of a Sh498 million sea wall meant to protect its foundation from eroding has stalled.

The contractor is reported to have withdrawn from the site in December last year after a disagreement with his consultant.

The Nation learnt that work on the wall stopped over the row between the contractor and the consultant, Copperk Consultant Ltd.

The wall was intended to prevent Indian Ocean waters from eroding the foundation of the Fort Jesus. Huge blocks remain at the site.

'REASONABLE' AMOUNT

According to sources at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), the construction stopped although the government had paid a "reasonable" amount of money that would allow the building to continue.

"This is the third month now and there is no sign of consensus between those working on the project. Water has now started getting through the temporary walls built to allow the smooth construction of the wall," said a source.

The NMK had reclaimed a two-acre tract and used it to put up a temporary cofferdam that will protect workers from seawater. A cofferdam is a watertight enclosure that allows construction work below the waterline.

Water has started seeping through the cofferdam.

Contacted for comment, NMK director of museum sites and monuments Purity Kiura, who is also the officer in charge of the project, said: "I am not aware," before she hung up the phone.

But according to insiders, Dr Kiura was set to visit Mombasa to follow up on the matter and another issue concerning NMK in Likoni.

RISING SEA WAVES

The construction of the sea wall started in January last year after experts expressed fears that the historical site would crumble with rising sea waves.

NMK officials moved to put up the wall after a study by heritage and marine experts from Unesco warned that because of climate change most historic and cultural sites could be swallowed up by seawater.

The construction of the sea wall was therefore part of a "rescue programme" by NMK meant to protect historical sites and landmarks in the coastal region.

NMK, the State corporation that manages museums, sites and monuments, had in 2016 announced that it will spend Sh100 million to rehabilitate Fort Jesus and a further Sh15 million to restore the Vasco da Gama Pillar to shield them from the vagaries of the weather.

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