Stakeholders at the Mama Ngina Waterfront Park in Likoni, Mombasa have opposed attempts by local politicians to turn the tourist historic site into a hawking zone.
The park sitting on 26 acres overlooking the Kilindini Channel in Mombasa has in 2019 been transformed into an integrated urban tourist attraction facility.
Their sentiments come amid a push by a section of politicians in Mombasa to allow hawkers into the park which is viewed as a political campaign ahead of the 2022 general elections.
According to the national government, the unregulated business and other public activities would affect the ‘aesthetic value’ of the iconic seaside park that was recently renovated and redeveloped by the government at a cost of 460 million shillings.
The scenic Mama Ngina Waterfront Park formerly the Mama Ngina Drive, a seafront open public space has been a popular destination for foreign and local tourists over the years.
The refurbishment included landscaping and paving the waterfront with concrete blocks, construction of state of the art amphitheater, the Kilindini cultural centre, ablution blocks and two main gates leading to the park among other developments.
Recently, the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth affairs connected the Park with the internet turning it into a public WiFi zone which was realised through collaboration between various agencies at both the National and County level.
Mama Ngina Waterfront National Park Coordinator Ali Noor contends that allowing hawkers and other petty traders into the park would affect its appeal more so after the government spent a lot of money on beautification and restoration works.
Mr Noor said there are chances that the appeal of the park would be degraded if hawking activities or public gatherings would be allowed unabated.
“We are convinced that hawking would lead to the deterioration of this place and would result in a decline in tourist flow’ he said.
He said the flow of tourists has been increasing since the completion of the beautification work adding that National Youth Service personnel provide security at the site.
He said the project was designed to support tourism activities and not a ‘business centre per see’ noting that the site has only 76 business stalls for small scale traders,
The official insisted that they are keen on maintaining the tourist hotspot as a place of leisure and relaxation.
“This is primarily a tourist relaxation site and not a market place and hawkers should go to designated markets within the county” said Mr Noor during an interview.
Mr. Noor also welcomed the lifting of the nationwide night curfew saying that would allow the tourist park to support a 24 hour economy.
[The memorial Kilindini house at Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, in Mombasa. Photo/Ahmed Omar].
Chairman of the Mama Ngina Waterfront Park traders Salim Shafi says allowing hawkers into the tourist attraction site would lead to increased crime.
“Crime can have a very negative impact on tourism and should not be taken lightly” he said, noting that the modern park is adding to the appeal of Mombasa as a world famous tourist resort.
The facility has also given a platform during weekends to food vendors, showcasing different kinds of coastal delicacies, making it a culinary delight which is now attracting both local and international visitors who are thronging the place to sample the delicacies.