Okoa Mombasa welcomes the notice published by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) today, which, if properly implemented, should return full port services to Mombasa after a three-plus year absence.
KPA’s notice states that importers can now choose their preferred place of customs clearance and method of cargo transport. Since 2019, government directives have required importers to ship cargo via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and clear all cargo in Nairobi or Naivasha. We interpret KPA’s notice to mean that these so-called SGR cargo directives have been rescinded, as directed by President Ruto after his inauguration.
We applaud this move because the SGR monopoly over cargo transport has devastated Mombasa’s port-based economy over the past three years. Thousands of truck owners and drivers lost their livelihoods; clearing and forwarding firms moved or closed shop; local container freight stations were rendered useless and tens of thousands of people working in truck dealerships, fuel service stations, mechanics, spare parts dealers, restaurants, informal sector kiosks, hawking, were effectively left jobless.
Today’s notice means that Mombasa’s economic engine can run again, and our city can begin building back. It will not happen overnight, but we are confident that Mombasa residents’ dedication, hard work and ingenuity will restore our city to its former prominence.
We also hope this notice signals an end to the government’s policy of forcing Mombasa to bear an excessive share of the burden for the KES 450 billion (USD 4.2 billion) in loans taken out by the state to build the SGR. That policy essentially sacrificed Mombasa’s economy in an attempt to pay for an ill-conceived, overpriced project.
Going forward, Okoa Mombasa will continue to pursue its goal of ensuring effective public participation in all decisions affecting local resources. We will also be vigilant in monitoring implementation of today’s KPA notice, to ensure that cargo importers are given the freedom they are entitled to.
Lastly, Okoa Mombasa calls upon the Government to drop its appeal of the decision in Constitutional Petitions No. 159 of 2018 and No. 201 of 2019 (Civil Appeal No. E.12 of 2021). In that case, the High Court found that the SGR cargo directives were unconstitutional. With the directives revoked, the case is now moot. The government should withdraw its appeal immediately.
We also call upon President Ruto to obey an outstanding court order requiring the government to publicly release all contracts and agreements related to the SGR’s planning, construction and operations. Okoa Mombasa members won that court order in 2021, but the government’s appeal is still pending.