It’s certainly become a norm for death stories to top daily broadcasts to a point where we’re becoming numb to it. News of the death of a mother and her daughter cued in the last quarter of the year, and what has most infuriated most Kenyans is the way these deaths happened and the attention or lack thereof, that they’re being given. Mariam Kigenda and her 4-year old daughter Amanda Kiveu drowned on Sunday after their car slipped from the ferry and into the ocean as captured in several videos that have been making rounds online.
This is one heartbreaking memory that will be etched in the minds of the family of the deceased who now have to deal with the agony of waiting for the bodies to be retrieved from the ocean. Unfortunately, the incompetency displayed by Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) and all other maritime state agencies has subjected the family to more pain as they have to wait a while longer before laying them to rest. Kenyans are angry and rightfully so, because this is one thing that would and should have been avoided. When one pieces together different elements in this tragedy, it wholesomely speaks to the magnitude of negligence that has become the norm in this country.
Many hoped that appropriate rescue and recovery measures would have been put in place following the Mtongwe ferry tragedy that claimed 257 lives, but it appears that even 25 years later no one in leadership has been keen enough to make the Likoni ferry channel safe. As witnessed on the Sunday incident, the rescue personnel; equipment and protocol is wanting. But it makes one wonder whether it is an issue of inadequate funding, ignorance by leaders or utter disregard for people’s safety. What most may not know is that this incident is not in any way unique, since a Kenya Ports Authority accountant died in similar circumstances in 2016. An Unga Limited canter also plunged into the ocean earlier this year. It may seem that the government has buried its head in the sand hoping that the impending danger at the Likoni ferry channel will somehow go away.
This terrible attitude risks the safety and lives of the 300,000 Kenyans who use the ferry every day. Perhaps Kenyan lives aren’t valued anymore since all these deaths and injuries that have been reported over time are yet to strike a nerve that will drive immediate and permanent solutions.
That aside, most of the Kenya Ferry vessels have been an eyesore for years with cranky parts that are beyond maintenance. Many have had to deal with ramps that endanger the lives of commuters both in cars and on foot. The ramps are either so old and immobile or missing some parts, forcing passengers to jump off and on to the incline risking to fall or getting their shoes wet in the process. Logically speaking a functional, raised ramp would have stopped the car from reversing backwards and plunging into the ocean but we have a tendency of being reactive rather than proactive to pertinent issues.
State agencies such as Kenya Ferry Services, Kenya Navy and the Kenya Coast Guard that was launched in 2018 are all funded by taxpayers’ money, so to provide decent services while safeguarding Kenyans’ lives is the bare minimum. Those heading these offices have questions to answer. Calling for the resignation of the officials responsible will not only spark accountability but it will demand responsibility from those in charge. During such moments when emotions are high and there’s enough blame to go around, Parliament needs to step in and step up its oversight role.
MPs particularly Coastal MPs need to truly represent those who voted them in and demand for conclusive investigations into the management of KFS, establish whether KFS has adequate funds allocated to it and demand an audit of the spend of said funds. Furthermore, MPs need to rise to the occasion and push for progressive and impactful change.
Those who have had a hand in these deaths, either through negligence or corruption should face the full force of law as we’ve seen with the owner of the Precious Talent School that claimed 8 lives. If this doesn’t happen, then the government will just be complacent in these deaths.