The government on Sunday held Mashujaa Day fete at Mama Ngina Waterfront, formerly Mama Ngina Drive, the first national celebration in the Coast region.
But do you know the history behind the 26-acre waterfront and the person who vigorously fought for its existence? It’s Khelef Khalifa, Muslims for Human Rights- MUHURI Chairperson – and that is why we are celebrating him today.
Here’s the history:
In 1997, then-President Daniel Arap Moi, irregularly allocated the parcel to among other people, his political cronies Rashid Sajad and Mohamed Bawazir, and two churches – Africa Inland Church (AIC), and Baptist Church Convention.
At the time, Moi’s reelection was under threat, and to survive the opposition onslaught in Mombasa, the former President issued title deeds, to endear self to locals. But the land in question was public, set aside by then Municipal Council of Mombasa for recreation.
AIC and Baptist sought approvals for building from the Council. Twice, the councilors rejected the request, attracting Moi’s fury.
Moi, who had to make an emergency visit to Mombasa, summoned then-Mayor Ahmed Mwidani at State House. His orders to Mwidani were simple: “You must approve the plans.” The retired President told Mwidani there was only one government – Moi’s.
Mwidani knew he would be faced with unspecified consequences if he defied.
[Fireworks during the launch of the new Mama Ngina water front. Photos/Ahmed Omar].
Mwidani immediately called for a full council meeting, and the councilors approved the churches’ building plans.
The move sparked outrage in the town. It was suicidal to challenge the President’s directive. Moi had subdued dissents.
Sajad, one of KANU’s biggest financiers in the 90s, started erecting a wall on the part of the waterfront. Khelef, prepared with over 15 kilos hammer, set out to demolish Sajad’s construction.
The government deployed dozens of cops to block Khelef and arrest him. They were armed with guns and batons and were ready to toss teargas canisters.
Police’s instruction was to assault Khelef if he became “stubborn”. People said Khelef was “mad” and powerless to attempt the unthinkable – fight Moi and go-ahead to challenge the actions of his allies like Sajad.
Sajad enjoyed massive protection from the President, and brawling him appeared as courting Moi’s wrath.
Moi would finish Khelef with just a fist if he risked, so the public erroneously thought.
However, Khelef buoyed up by the quest for justice, stood atop the perimeter wall and started demolishing it. Police pounced, punched, kicked, and clobbered him. The cops arrested Khelef and charged him at the court of law.
[Some of the current scenes of Mama Ngina water front. Photos/Ahmed Omar].
Lawyers James Orengo, Willy Mutunga, Paul Mwite, Haron Ndumbi, and Gikandi Ngubuini represented Khelef.
In its verdict, the court found Moi irregularly alienated Mama Ngina to among others, Sajad, Bwazir, and the two churches.
The court ordered all title deeds Moi issued to be revoked and the Council to restore the land for public use.
Over two decades later, the public can access the waterfront without restrictions.