(eTN) – No sooner were memories fading over the strike a week ago, which brought the ferry services between Mombasa and the southern mainland to a standstill, did more bad news hit home. A mega jam, not ever seen before at such a massive scale, brought traffic to a halt for 16 hours at the critical entrance to Mombasa from the Nairobi highway at Miritini, Mariakani, and Mazeras, stranding locals as well as tourists returning from safari.
The main cause, local tourism sources were swift to add, was an apparent slow-go strike by traffic police, intent to force government to increase their pay and terms of service substantially beyond the offer on the table right now. The spot, however, is notorious for traffic jams, as experienced a few weeks ago hands on and close up when returning from a safari to the Satao Camp and the Sarova lodges of Taita Hills and Salt Lick, adding at least two hours of journey time. This is in part attributed to ongoing road works, which lag massively behind the original schedule, blamed on incompetent contractors chosen for the job.
Some motorists in the process ran out of fuel, aggravating an already difficult situation as fresh police contingents were brought in to get traffic moving again, after trucks and undisciplined drivers had caused a gridlock spread over 20 kilometers, halting traffic in and out of Mombasa and forcing hundreds of travelers in busses and cars to spend much of the night in their vehicles.
“Mombasa has been neglected when it comes to infrastructure. Nairobi has seen a big push for more highways, bridges, flyover, and roads. Here in Mombasa we are stuck with one bridge between the city and Nyali and ferry services which are simply no good. The bypass from the Nairobi highway to the South Coast and even the road from Kwale to connect to the Nairobi highway are still a far away dream. The neglect of the coast will be costing us dearly because tourists coming a second time see that nothing has changed. In fact jams got worse. Why would they come a third time? We need to find a serious advocate to represent coast tourism concerns to government and get things moving. Kenya coast has a big potential for tourism, for investments, but it needs more than just words. It is a shame Balala [former Tourism Minister Najib Balala who got sacked when he exposed his party leader for undemocratic practices] got removed from tourism because he was our best hope,” said a regular source from Mombasa when asked to comment on the situation.
“Safari operators know the problem, to get out of Mombasa in the morning and much worse to get back into Mombasa in the afternoon when guests come back from safari. They leave earlier now at both ends of the trip to cater for the traffic jams but when it combines with breakdown ferries, it becomes a real problem to manage,” he then added, highlighting the challenges coast tourism faces, besides a regular supply of water, electricity, the beach boy menace, and general security concerns.