Okoa Mombasa has renewed its demand that the County Assembly hold a public hearing on renaming Mombasa’s waterfront park, now known as “Mama Ngina Park.”
Okoa Mombasa originally submitted a petition on the issue in November 2019, just after the newly renovated park was reopened. The County Assembly then agreed to hold a public forum to discuss the issue on March 4, 2020 at Tononoka Social Hall. Unfortunately, the hearing was mysteriously cancelled at the last minute – on the morning of the event. The Covid-19 pandemic then struck Kenya, and the issue has yet to be taken up again.
The new petition submitted today demands the long-delayed public forum finally be held.
“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,” the petition reads.
Okoa Mombasa believes that 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.
“Today, we are officially reviving our 2019 petition, giving the current Mombasa County Assembly a chance to seek the people’s consensus about this important issue,” said Okoa Mombasa member Khelef Khalifa. “This is vital in protecting devolution, which we envision as giving locals more power to decide on the control and use of resources within their jurisdiction. We urge the Assembly to call a public forum on the issue as soon as possible.”
In an informal social media poll that Okoa Mombasa conducted in 2020, Mekatilili Wa Menza Park was chosen by voters as the top name, 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. Okoa Mombasa takes no official position on what the park’s new name should be.
Prior to the elections, 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).