Place names are an important part of the intangible cultural heritage of a people: They contain information that tell us about the place and the circumstances at the period of time the name came into being. But Mombasa’s Mama Ngina Park is an outlier; its name has no connection to Mombasa, Coast or the region’s people.
That’s why we’re fighting to rename Mama Ngina Park. We believe the selected name should signal a reclamation of the historical and cultural heritage of the people of Mombasa, in particular, and the Coast, in general. We want the new name to be chosen through a local, participatory public process.
As a first step, we’re asking the Mombasa County Assembly to hold a public forum on the issue, and to discuss possible new names. See below for more on our campaign.
The Mombasa County Assembly must seek the people’s consensus on the issue of renaming the park. This is vital in protecting devolution and giving locals more power to decide on the control and use of resources within their jurisdiction.
11 November 2022
Less than 24 hours after our fantastic Twitter Space on renaming Mama Ngina Park, the Mombasa County Assembly responded to our latest petition and refused to hold a public forum on renaming the park (read their letter here). The Assembly claims that the park’s management falls under the purview of the National Government, and therefore the County has no power to act.
Okoa Mombasa takes issue with the Assembly’s response. Even if they do not have the power to change the name, they still have a leadership duty on this issue. This duty includes facilitating a discussion on the issue amongst the people of Mombasa. The Assembly can then, at the very least, present a recommendation to the National Assembly based on this discussion.
Okoa Mombasa’s official response will be coming shortly.
19 October 2022: Okoa Mombasa re-files petition with County Assembly
Background: We originally submitted a petition on the issue in November 2019, just after the newly renovated park was reopened. The County Assembly agreed to hold a public forum to discuss the issue on March 4, 2020, but cancelled at the last minute. The Covid-19 pandemic then struck Kenya, and the issue has yet to be taken up again.
1 July 2022: Key election candidates pledge to hold exercise on renaming park
In July, Okoa Mombasa launched its 2022 Election Pledge, which asked candidates to pledge to four key issues to boost Mombasa and Coast. The Pledge explicitly mentioned providing “participation in the re-naming exercise of the waterfront park and certain streets in Mombasa County.”
A total of nine candidates signed the pledge, including eventual election winners Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir (Governor) and Sen. Mohamed Faki (Senator).
6 July 2020: Okoa Mombasa releases results of online poll
In an informal social media poll conducted by Okoa Mombasa, voters chose Mekatilili Wa Menza Park as the preferred name for the park, with 44.3% of the vote.
Mombasa Waterfront Park came in second with 32.9% of the vote. Light House Drive Park (16.4%) and Mombasa Portview Park (6.4%) came in third and fourth place, respectively.
21 May 2020: Okoa Mombasa launches online poll to solicit new names for the park
With the County Government abdicating its responsibilities, Okoa Mombasa launches a social media poll to solicit new potential names for the park. The public provided over 30 suggestions.
4 March 2020: Mombasa County Assembly cancels public forum
After scheduling a public forum on renaming the park at Tononoka Social Hall, the Mombasa County Assembly mysteriously cancelled the event just hours before it was to begin.
No official explanation was provided, but Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala later told the media that the park’s name would not be changed.
27 February 2020: County Assembly schedules public forum on renaming park
On February 27, 2020, the assembly’s Tourism, Trade, and Investment Committee posted an advertisement asking the public to participate in a hearing at Tononoka Social Hall. It set the hearing for March 4, 2020, with March 5 as the deadline for submissions of written memoranda. See the advert here.
8 November 2019: Okoa Mombasa files petition for public hearing on renaming park
On 8 November 2019, Okoa Mombasa Coalition petitioned the Mombasa County Assembly to conduct a forum with structured public participation with a view to changing the name of the park.
20 October 2019: Refurbished park is reopened
Former president Uhuru Kenyatta officially opened Mama Ngina Waterfront Park after it was redeveloped at the cost of Sh460 million.