Family seeks divine help as divers intensify search for bodies

Five South Africans join their compatriots and Kenya Navy officers

In Summary

• Family rejected calls to sacrifice an animal to appease 'blood-thirsty' sea gods proposed by Mijikenda elders. 

• Spokesperson says family 'believes in the God it serves'. 

Four of the five South African scuba divers from Subsea Services that were contracted by the family at the Likoni ferry on October 7
'PRAY WITH US': Four of the five South African scuba divers from Subsea Services that were contracted by the family at the Likoni ferry on October 7

South African divers on Tuesday joined the Kenya Navy officers in the mission to recover the bodies of Likoni ferry tragedy victims even as the family sought divine intervention. 

Four of the five South Africans contracted by the family arrived on Monday evening and joined their colleague, who is based in Kenya. 

Their arrival, coupled with the other three (also South Africans) that were contracted by the government and the new technology the government procured to help enhance the recovery efforts, raised the family’s hopes of finding the bodies of their loved ones. 


Family spokesperson Luka Mbati on Tuesday called on Kenyans to join them in prayers. 

“Those at home and everywhere else, pray for us so that this exercise may be successful today,” Luka said. 

Mariam Kighenda, 35, and her daughter Amanda Mutheu, four, perished at the Likoni crossing channel on September 29 after their car reversed off the moving ferry mid-stream and plunged into the ocean.

The wreckage of their car has not been located. 

The family has resisted pressure from locals to conduct rituals to appease the sea gods by offering an animal sacrifice.

Mijikenda elders urged the family to slaughter an animal and spill the blood into the sea to appease the sea spirits, whom they believe are holding the two bodies.

On Tuesday, Mbati said they believe in the God they serve. The family discussed the matter on Sunday as pressure mounted.


They will not perform the rituals, which has divided opinion across the region.

Meanwhile, a group of seafarers on Tuesday called for radical changes at both the Kenya Maritime Authority and the Kenya Ferry Services to avert a major maritime disaster in the near future.

The Seafarers Brotherhood–a platform of merchants, fishermen and all who labour at sea to fight for better working conditions and pay–said the government is exposing Kenyans to more risks. 

“Frequent maritime accidents and mishaps at the Likoni and Mtongwe ferry crossings portend a looming maritime disaster that could devastate the local ecosystem, as has happened in the past,” group’s convenor Andrew Mwangura said. 

In a statement to newsrooms, Mwangura–who has over 30 years’ experience as a seafarer, said the accident shows the KFS has lost focus and direction. 

We are convinced beyond any doubt that unless KMA and KFS radically overhaul, our waterways would remain a peril like swords of Damocles upon the lives of Kenyans,” Mwangura said.

He said the mandate to deliver the safety and operations of ferries should be urgently handed to qualified marine engineer and a navigational officer with a minimum Class 2 foreign oceangoing certificate of competency. 

“And the ferries must be manned by qualified merchant mariners." 

He said the government’s plan to build a bridge at the crossing channel is noble. 

He, however, noted it would take years, by when an immediate solution should have been found.

“We cannot afford to see more lives lost for years while waiting for construction of a bridge whose funding is even still in doubt,” the seafarer said. 

On Saturday, Transport CS James Macharia said the government's plans to construct a bridge across the channel are ongoing.

He noted that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have signed an agreement for the funding of the bridge. 

So far, Japan has committed an initial Sh42 billion loan for the bridge that would require at least Sh82 billion to build.

Macharia said the bridge will be complemented by cable car services to be established by the private sector through a Public-Private Partnership.

Already, a firm from Austria has been identified and allocated land for the project, Macharia said. 

On Tuesday, Mwangura said currently, a collision in the busy Likoni channel cannot be ruled out. 

“Statistically 90 per cent of maritime accidents are due to human error. We need to focus on well-trained workforce and highly invest in competency,” Mwangura said.

Isaac Makau, a senior Chief in Changamwe, expressed optimism the bodies would be retrieved on Tuesday given the expertise that has been deployed for the exercise.

Edited by R.Wamochie