Malindi boat operators strike over levies, bans by warden

Fees for boats anchoring offshore, dragging boats on beach for repair

In Summary

• They say warden introduced new levies including Sh300 for a boat  anchored offshore, claim they weren't consulted. 

• They say they used to enter the park on their motorbikes but now are told to leave them at the gate. 

Boat operators at the Malindi Marine National Park have gone on strike protesting against new levies and rules.

They said the management did not consult them.

More than 160 boat operators handling excursions, fishing and other activities said authorities had come up with rules meant to frustrate their work. 

They complain they are forced to pay for their motorcycles at the gate when reporting to work, to alight with their facilities at the main entrance and even pay for boats dragged onto the shore for repair.

They said the warden introduced a daily levy of Sh300 for a boat anchored  offshore.

They usually carry their food when going to the beach but said they were told not to do so.

On Tuesday, they marched outside the offices to the main gate, then to Malindi town, demanding the immediate transfer of senior warden Jane Gitau "or else we will not resume our work". 

They carried placards reading "Malindi Marine Park Senior Warden Must Go," "We are tired of you, you and your team must go," 'SGT Bocha you and your team go home,' among others. 

Malindi Marine Park Boat Operators Association chairman Ali Baba said the trouble started on Tuesday after they were denied entry at the gates of the park on their motorcycles.

"Normally as the staff, we go in with our motorcycles but we were barred," Baba said.

He accused the warden of insulting and frustrating them "despite being the biggest contributors of revenue for the Kenya Wildlife Service". 

"We are the founders of the Malindi Marine Park. She found us here, she does not know anything but pretends to because she is a senior warden." 

He said they would not go back to the park until the warden is transferred, accusing her of being against their work. 

When contacted for comment, the senior warden said the issue was being handled administratively because it involves security matters.

Gitau said they had set up the measures to ensure everyone's safety.

But association secretary John Boen said since last year they have been subjected to mistreatment by the KWS with constant orders by the authority. 

"We are being told there is a terror threat. All these years, we have been working but now we are being sidelined, how can they succeed if they do not involve us?" he asked. 

The secretary said they will stay away from work until a new management team is posted at the park. 

Boat owner Omar Vae said the senior warden introduces new orders each month and called that unacceptable.

"We are giving the government 24 hours to transfer the senior warden or else we will not work anymore at the marine park," he said.

Boat owner Balala Matano said they contribute revenue to the KWS which is deducted for every boat trip. He said each tourist pays Sh1,800.

Last weekend, more than 50 bikers led by led by Kilifi county Speaker Jimy Kahindi were denied entry into the park. 

Edited by R.Wamochie