Car sinking: The shame of Navy, KFS and officials

Despite being a stone's throw away from the Linkoni Ferry, Kenya Navy's response was wanting

In Summary

•It has also emerged that disjointed efforts led to the deaths.

•KFS management did not alert the Navy on time, over need for assistance.

Five days later, after hours of anxiety and anguish, a multi-agency team of marine experts has found no sign of the sunken vehicle that rolled unchecked from a moving Likoni Ferry.

Inside the vehicle, in 60 to 80 meters of water, are the bodies of Mariam Kigenda, 35, and her daughter Amanda, four.

Focus is now shifting on the shame of the Kenya Navy, situated a stone's throw away from the Likoni Channel, now called a "death trap".


With a trending hashtag, #boycottmashujaa — expressing their fury over the slow pace of response — some social media users are now asking Coast residents to boycott Mashujaa Day, 17 days hence, on October 20th.


The event to be presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta will be held a very few metres from the crossing channel at the refurbished Sh460 million Mama Ngina Waterfront Park. It is to be officially opened on the same day.

During that event, Heroes Day, it is expected that the Kenyan Navy will for the first time showcase its skills and prowess, its equipment and demonstrate its commitment to Kenyans as the custodians of marine safety. And guardians against terrorism.

But yesterday, Kenyan lawmakers and the public expressed their anger and disgust the same noble Navy didn't swing into action to find the car and retrieve the bodies of the mother and daughter.

Residents have been complaining of disjointed efforts by the agencies, and private divers, in their efforts to rescue the mother and daughter whose car slipped beneath the waves on Sunday evening.

Were there no chains, no tailgate or drawbridge to keep vehicles from slipping into the ocean? If not, why not? Who is to answer? And why so long to act?

MPs' voices


Yesterday Both the National Assembly and the Senate adjourned their normal business to discuss the tragedy which has exposed lapses at the Kenya Ferry Services and a hopelessly bungled response.

Lawmakers faulted Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia and Kenya Navy for inaction.

Senators demanded Macharia's resignation.

“KFS's primary responsibility and core mandate is the safety of passengers. Even in an emergency ward, there must be necessary equipment. [But] what do we see? Spectators, watching somebody disappearing in the water,” Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri said.

Lawmakers asked why it took the CS three days to appoint a task force to spearhead the search.

“Those crossing the vehicle and travelling are now in fear. We want assurances of passengers' safety,"Nominated Senator Agnes Zani said.

In the National Assembly, Rabai MP Kamoti Mwamkale claimed Kenya Navy officers were busy practising for the Mashujaa Day celebrations at nearby Uhuru Gardens and did not care to respond.

MPs want the government to take immediate action against Kenya Ferry Services and Kenya Coast Guard for laxity.

Also on lawmakers' radar is CS Macharia, whom they said has not expressed any sympathy, even as they accuse the State of ignoring the disaster.


KFS Managing Director Bakari Gowa admitted the ferry service lacks the capacity to manage disasters at the crossing channel and they have to depend on the  Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Navy personnel.

It has also emerged that lacking and disjointed search and rescue efforts could have led to the deaths.

KFS management did not alert the Navy in time and call for emergency assistance.

A highly placed source confirms that the KFS did not inform the Navy in good time and never used proper channels to pass on information about the sinking car.

“Constitution Article 241 provides for aid to civil authorities during emergencies and disasters," the source said. speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"For any military personnel to be deployed, there must be an order. KFS should have stated that the incident was beyond its capacity,  alerted the Regional Commissioner or even the police that they required the Navy's help."

The source continued, "At what time did KFS contact Navy, if they ever did? The Navy must seek approval by calling headquarters for authorisation from the Chief of Defence Forces, and in such a case permission would have been immediate."

The source said there was a disconnect between civil authority and the Kenya Defence Forces since KFS does not detail how and at what time they communicated.

The naval branch of the Kenya military forces, based in Mombasa, has at least 12 vessels.

Kenya Navy Deputy fleet commander, Colonel Lawrence Gituma, who is also in charge of the search operations, spoke exclusively to the Star on the sidelines of the operation. He said they have the capacity to retrieve the bodies and wreckage.

He blamed shipping traffic, muddy water, poor visibility, strong ocean tides and ferry operations slow salvage operations.

“We have to balance national interest as well as the interests of commuters. This is a very slow and painful process,” Gituma said.

He said the robots that were being used to carry out the search cannot detect underwater pictures and shapes because the water is dirty and the channel is very deep.

“Time spent underwater by the divers is very minimal because of the depth of the channel,” he said. they can only spend a certain time at a certain depth without having to resurface slowly to prevent the bends.

The Kenya Coast Guard Service, which was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in November last year, is based at Liwatoni Mombasa, which is also a stone's throw away from the accident scene.

The President appointed Brigadier Vincent Loonena as the pioneer director general of the Coast Guard oversee the protection of the country’s waters against dumping of harmful waste and pollutants, search and rescue services and ensure the arrest of illegal fishermen.

The Coast Guard was, however, never involved in these search and rescue operations.

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard's MV Doria was patrolling the Likoni Channel, but only the Navy and private divers were involved in the search.

KOT -- box or shaded areas

Was it the wrath by Kenyans on social media and the Kenyan media that made officials act, albeit too late? The family too is asking hard questions about the ill-equipped ferry and calamitous disaster preparedness.

Some comments under the hastag , BoycottMashujaaDay:

Sultan™ @Marshal_Sultan

@Marshal Sultan said the government has failed Kenyans.

“You have failed Kenyans and we will surprise the government on #BoycottMashujaaDay hamna huruma na mkenya wa Kawaida.”

@Bobbykiarie said, “Sometimes I am puzzled by the fact that incompetent people hold offices and still do even after such a disaster! How on earth have we not seen any resignations or firing? Arethey getting any sleep? We need to get our act together #BoycottMashujaaDay #LikoniFerryTragedy.”

Kenyans were also surprised by what the Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett was coming to do at the channel three days after the car plunged off the ferry.

@CalystusMurung5 asked, “Really? As if she's an Expert in that #LikoniFerryTragedy #BoycottMashujaaDay.

@ShanizKiky asked, “Is she going to dive or what is her work now? Hii Kenya Tuko na Ujinga mwingi Sana. #LikoniFerryTragedy.

Another said, Interior counterpart Karanja Kibicho was at Mama Ngina Waterfront Park on Monday, but did not bother to visit the Likoni Channel.

At the crossing channel, residents, especially women, held prayers, wailed, made declarations and condemned KFS management. They promised to camp there until the bodies and wreckage were retrieved.

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