Traders and transporters who were disadvantaged by the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and Naivasha dry port, can now smile after President William Ruto reverted most operations to the Mombasa Port.
President Kenyatta had ordered that most cargo landing in Mombasa be ferried to Naivasha for clearing, as a way of offering more business to the SGR to repay the Chinese loan that was used for its construction. Further, he added that the move was also aimed at decongesting the Mombasa Port.
The directive by President Ruto has faced criticism by a section of entrepreneurs especially from Naivasha and Nairobi counties who feel that the move will make them lose their source of livelihood.
This move was welcomed by Mombasa residents, clearing agents, port workers, truckers, traders, hotels, eateries and other businesses, who were delighted.
Most of the residents of Mombasa depend on Kenya Ports Authority operations as a source of income.
On the other hand, a section of Naivasha residents were against the move, saying it would hurt their new livelihoods.
Setting up the Naivasha Economic Zone was and is meant to come up with manufacturing facilities with access to cheap geothermal power and SGR transport to and from Mombasa Port.
Speaking during an event in Mombasa, Governor Abdulswamad Nassir welcomed the directive by the President.
“I welcome the recent directive by the President to revert port services back to Mombasa. This is a bold step, in the right direction towards the economic revival of our county,” said the governor and added: “We look forward to the subsequent phase and the creation of jobs for our people that will arise from this.”
Transporters had previously decried losing their jobs once the SGR was given special preference in the cargo business.
They wanted the government to allow them to make their own choice on whichever means of transportation they preferred to use and not limit them.
“Cargo transportation should be based on what the importer wants, not what the government wants. That is why SGR should not be given special preference,” said Wanja Kiragu, the operations director at East Africa Online Transport Agency.
Further, Ms. Wanja faulted the government’s involvement in transportation saying that it ought to leave the private sector to actively venture in transport business so that it can be an active player in the same.
However, a lobby group, First Action Movement, defended President Ruto’s directive saying that the Poastal people had finally received justice by getting the Mombasa port back.
Salim Karama, chairman of the movement, urged Naivasha residents protestingagainst the decision by the President to give him a chance to deliver on his manifesto.
“President Ruto did not infringe on the rights of Naivasha people, he delivered justice to coastal people and we congratulate him for that. Our region suffered economically following the illegal directive to transfer port operations to Nairobi and Naivasha,” said Karama.
The operations of the SGR will definitely be affected as well as traders who had made their plans to start businesses in both Nairobi and Naivasha in-land ports. A section of them have decried losses that they will incur following this directive.
When the trucks start ferrying goods from the Mombasa Port to Nairobi, Kenyans should again brace themselves for heavy traffic and congestion along Nairobi-Mombasa Highway. The SGR has helped in easing this traffic that has been a nuisance to Kenyans.