The Kenya Ports Authority’s (KPA) recent announcement calling for bids to privatise parts of the Mombasa Port has met with staunch opposition from Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir. The bid comes as a significant move that could redefine the ownership and operation of several key ports in the region.
The governor made his views clear during the inauguration ceremony of the Offshore Fishing Boats on Tuesday. He expressed deep concern about the proposed privatisation, openly questioning the tangible benefits this move would have for the residents of Mombasa. Given the port’s strategic importance and its role as a primary economic driver for the region, Nassir’s concerns revolve around ensuring that the local community’s interests are safeguarded.
A central point of contention is the lack of transparency around the decision-making process leading to this privatisation push. Governor Nassir demanded insights into the feasibility study that was undertaken, questioning its conclusions and the criteria used to determine the privatisation’s viability.
Despite receiving cautionary advice from within his office, Nassir exhibited resilience and dedication to his role, emphasizing that he isn’t afraid to voice his concerns. “We won’t be exploited. Now, they’re keen on privatising our ports. When I express my concerns, there are voices within my administration urging caution,” he declared, demonstrating his commitment to representing his constituency’s best interests.
In his remarks, Governor Abdulswamad also expressed worries about a growing trend of perceived dictatorship from the national government. His statement reflects broader concerns about the central government’s influence and its possible overreach into regional matters. Drawing parallels, he alluded to the ongoing dispute in the western region where there are plans to privatise struggling sugar factories.
Furthermore, Abdulswamad accused the national government of attempting to seize Mombasa’s valuable resources. He made a striking metaphor, suggesting that the central government would “sell the ocean’s water” if given an opportunity, illustrating his deep-seated concerns about potential resource exploitation at the expense of local communities.
The backdrop to this unfolding situation is provided by KPA’s Managing Director, William Ruto’s announcement on September 12. The notice invited potential bidders for the development and operation of select private assets through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). The available assets for interested parties include Lamu Container Terminal Berths 1 to 3, Lamu Special Economic Zone, Mombasa Port’s Berths 11 to 14, and Mombasa Port Container Terminal 1.
Historically, the privatisation initiative for the ports traces its origins back to the tenure of retired President Uhuru Kenyatta. Interestingly, his successor, who was then the Deputy President, opposed the move. However, in a notable shift, President William Ruto, who once stood against the privatisation, has now endorsed it, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing debate.
The potential privatisation of Mombasa Port has ignited a significant political and economic debate. With the local and national government at odds over the future direction of the port, the coming days promise intense discussions and decisions that will shape Mombasa’s economic trajectory. Governor Abdulswamad Nassir’s fierce opposition represents a call for transparency, due diligence, and a focus on the broader community’s welfare.