Kenya’s president sends ferry heads rolling

It did not take long for heads to roll at the Kenya Ferry Services after President Kenyatta a few days ago visited the company’s head office in the company of his Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.

It was in particular a vocal tourism sector demanding changes on the double at the ferry company when in quick-fire succession, ferries failed to operate, causing repeated massive traffic jams on both sides of the Likoni channel, at times prompting tourists to miss their flights home.

President Kenyatta and Najib Balala after the visit took a ride on one of the ferries across the channel and no doubt discussed the future of KFS’s management face to face. It came as no surprise, therefore, that in a hastily-convened board meeting yesterday, described as in part as “turbulent,” the Managing Director, Musa Hassan Musa, got the sack when he was ordered to go on terminal leave. With him fell into oblivion the company’s heads of engineering and operations, equally held responsible for the poor performance of the ferries, the lack of competent maintenance, and lack of managerial leadership.

“You cannot lie to the public forever and think you get away with it. Musa was a main obstacle even in labor relations and the unions often fingered him as the main source of their discontent. His attempts to extort higher fees and all sorts of other bad PR have now finally claimed his scalp. He thought he was untouchable, indispensable? He thought wrong. The new man must quickly sit down with key stakeholders now and make amends for the broken fences for which Musa was responsible,” wrote a regular Mombasa-based source when passing the information late yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, Balala’s backing of a bridge construction project across the channel has found major support on both sides of the political divide in Kenya, and in particular the tourism industry has urged for a fast tracking of the project. “Now that Balala has come out to support the bridge, we also need similar support to accelerate the Dongo Kundu bypass from the Nairobi highway and airport to the south coast. At the same time the road through Kwale must be upgraded to proper tarmac status and the same must happen to the Nairobi highway to Kilifi county road. We also need that second bridge from Mombasa island to the north coast without using a wrecking ball to create road space. There are options and government better react fast. If the support for government in the 2017 elections is to shift, this is their one-time chance to make an impact,”’ then added another source from the coast.

President Kenyatta’s family is a major stakeholder in the coast hospitality industry with their hotel interests vested in the Heritage Hotels company and as such no doubt in the know about the sentiments of the coast tourism fraternity and the specific needs to revive the sector.

The board of the Kenya Ferry Services company has in the meantime appointed Mr. Bakari Gowa, so far head of finance, as Acting Managing Director until a new CEO can be recruited