PUBLIC LAND

Wresting Mama Ngina Drive from State

No person or institution, including the State, should be allowed to take over public land.

In Summary
  • Mama Ngina Drive is public land and the National Museums of Kenya is holding the title of the recreational park in trust and on behalf of the people of Mombasa.
  • The NMK has no legal authority or approval whatsoever to hand over management of the Mama Ngina Waterfront to the Ministry of Tourism.

On Mashujaa Day, the eyes of the republic were on Mama Ngina Waterfront, Mombasa. Thousands converged at the venue to honour Kenya’s heroes and heroines. Little is known, however, of the history and struggle for the venue of this year’s Mashujaa Day.

On November 5, 1998, brave Kenyans from Mombasa descended on Mama Ngina Drive and began demolishing a perimeter wall that had been put up to hive off a chunk of the public land. Armed with huge hammers and iron rods, they began bringing down the wall blow by blow. Led by Haki Africa’s current chairman Munir Mazrui and Muhuri’s Khelef Khalifa, they mobilised others to join them and after a few minutes, hundreds of onlookers supported them in bringing down the wall. Private developers had grabbed Mama Ngina Drive.

The seven were arrested that day and taken to Central police station. A few days later, they were charged with demolishing the wall – a charge they challenged and won. High Court judge Aggrey Muchelule ruled the land belonged to the public and no private developer, religious or otherwise, would be allowed to grab public land and expect the court to rubber-stamp the illegality. This was a vindication of the struggle against theft of public land and resources.

 

More than 20 years later, Mama Ngina Drive is again under threat. This time, from a different source that is none other than the state. Through Kenya Gazette Notice of September 13, 2019, the Tourism Cabinet secretary purports to have appointed a management board to oversee Mama Ngina Waterfront.

Not only is this appointment (of a management board) unconstitutional and illegal, but a clear indication of the contempt the national government has for the people of Mombasa. The Ministry of Tourism has no business in the management of recreational facilities in the counties.

Not only is this appointment unconstitutional and illegal, but a clear indication of the contempt the national government has for the people of Mombasa. The Ministry of Tourism has no business in the management of recreational facilities in the counties.

Mama Ngina Drive is public land and the National Museums of Kenya is holding the title of the recreational park in trust and on behalf of the people of Mombasa. In that regard, the NMK has no legal authority or approval whatsoever to hand over management of the Mama Ngina Waterfront to the Ministry of Tourism. The title of the land was issued to the NMK to prevent further encroachment and grabbing by the then Municipal Council of Mombasa.

Article 62 ( 2 ) of the 2010 Constitution provides that “Public land shall vest in and be held by a county government in trust for the people resident in that county…”. That NMK has now allowed the entire park to be managed by the Ministry of Tourism is by all intentions and purposes to surrender the same to the State when legally the park belongs to the people of Mombasa. As a matter of fact, even if the State was in any way to get involved, it should be under the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage under which the NMK falls.

The title of the land was issued to the NMK to prevent further encroachment and grabbing by the then Municipal Council of Mombasa.

In a letter written in late September 2019, Haki Africa and the Institute for Land Governance and Human Rights (INLAGHR) demanded that the NMK takes steps within 14 days to ensure the Tourism Cabinet secretary rescinds the appointment of the management board and nullifies the same in the Kenya Gazette. Failing which Haki Africa and INLAGHR were to seek legal redress, including ensuring the title of Mama Ngina Drive is revoked from the NMK and given back to the people of Mombasa.

This week, Haki Africa and INLAGHR will institute legal proceedings to reclaim Mama Ngina Drive from the clutches of the State and revert it to the hands of the people of Mombasa. As a country, we must stand firm in defence of the Constitution and ensure local rights and interests are always protected. No person or institution, including the State itself, should be allowed to take over public land.

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