Kenya: A Year After Ferry Tragedy, No Change at Likoni Channel

General Service Unit officers took over the Likoni ferry crossing channel in Mombasa on March 26.
30 September 2020

Exactly one year after Ms Mariam Kighenda and her four-year-old daughter Amanda Mutheu died in a tragedy caused by a faulty ferry, nothing much has been done to improve services at the Likoni channel in Mombasa.

Assurances by the government that services at the channel would be improved have only remained empty promises as the situation is still the same, if not worse.

On September 29, 2019, Ms Kighenda's vehicle plunged into the sea midstream.

The incident sparked outrage from Kenyans, who accused the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) of negligence.

So far, apart from putting chains on both sides of prows in ferries to prevent vehicles from plunging into Indian Ocean, and the launching of a second new ferry, commuters have been left to continue risking their lives while using the channel.

The new ferry, Mv Safari, which has helped reduce congestion, was however taken out of service after developing mechanical problems, raising questions over its safety.

The ferry was grounded two months ago after a stampede that saw at least 20 people injured.

Mv Jambo was also withdrawn recently for routine maintenance a day after its prows failed to function, forcing commuters to stay in the ferry for 30 minutes before they could alight.

The Nation has learnt that Mv Harambee, the faulty ferry from which Ms Kighenda's car slid into the ocean, is being repaired before it resumes services.

DPP's order

When the Senate ad hoc committee on Covid-19 Chairperson Sylvia Kasanga and her team visited the channel to check the measures put in place to deal with the pandemic, they asked about the ferry, and KFS Managing Director Bakari Gowa confirmed that it was at the dry dock.

This is despite an order by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to have the ferry grounded and never to return to service.

Since then, the ferry has been out of service, leaving six ferries in operation.

The ferries have been grappling to deal with congestion and vehicular traffic at the channel.

In November last year, the Senate committee on Transport proposed that the old ferries including MV Harambee, Mv Nyayo and Mv Kilindini be grounded.

That was however not done as it would have resulted in a crisis at the channel. To date, the three ferries are still operational.

Meanwhile, KFS has defended its decision not to put standby divers at the channel, which Mr Gowa had termed expensive after the ferry tragedy.

He said the agency would not afford to put divers on standby as it relies on the Kenya Navy soldiers at Mtongwe Base, who are near the Likoni channel.

With the situation remaining the same at the channel, the only hope for Coast citizens is the construction of Likoni bridge, which is yet to begin.

Currently, all eyes are on the Likoni floating bridge, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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