Richard Leakey praises decision to stop Fort Jesus sea wall construction

Richard Leakey
Richard Leakey at the Progressive Forum in 2010. Photo: Ed Schipul (used under the Creative Commons Licence)

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and National Land Commission boss Muhammad Swazuri have been praised by conservationist Dr Richard Leakey for stopping the construction of a sea wall in the Indian Ocean.

In a statement, the former NMK Director criticised the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Fort Jesus land fill project, saying: “It is sad that this project has gone as far as it has and indicates that both the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the National Museums of Kenya are totally failing in their mandate and must be held to account by our government.”

However, NMK has said it intends to continue with the project to build a wall to prevent the sea water from destroying the foundation of Fort Jesus, despite Mr Joho and Professor Swazuri ordering the termination of the Ksh 498 million project last Thursday.

According to Mr Joho, the wall encroaches into around two acres of the ocean and has also blocked a public path to the sea.

But on Friday, NMK Director-General Mzalendo Kibunjia said the construction will go on according to plan.

Explaining his decision to continue with the project, Professor Kibunjia said that part of the space that Mr Joho had indicated was being reclaimed would be used to put up a cofferdam, which is the watertight enclosure which is built to allow construction work below the waterline.

Fort Jesus in Mombasa
Fort Jesus in Mombasa.

Dr Leakey has said that Fort Jesus is an international landmark, “recognised as a Unesco World Heritage site and as such, cannot be altered, defaced or violated.”

“Many years ago, my late father and others persuaded the government to remove the monument from being a prison and over the years massive funding enabled the National Museums to restore it as a faithful icon to history.

“One’s common sense, let alone the Kenya and intended law, does not permit what the current National Museum administration is attempting.

“I can only presume that the effort is tied to money and selfish, perhaps questionable, deals. The Fort must be maintained as it was built over 500 years ago. If the sea is causing real damage, experts exist in Kenya and through international conservation bodies to make the repairs and preserve the fort’s integrity.

“I congratulate the governor and the National Land Commission chairman and urge that in addition to halting the reckless project, they should arrange for a full investigation to be done, which could lead to further actions against the perpetrators.” – Richard Leakey

Professor Swazuri has warned private developers against reclaiming land from the Indian Ocean and expressed concern that sea walls had been constructed in various areas along the Coast line, adding that ecological sensitivity of the area will not allow it to be reclaimed.

He also said he will stop any illegal development and urged private developers to involve NLC, the Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service, National Environment Management Authority, Kenya Ports Authority and all stakeholders mandated by the law to protect the Kenyan waterss.

“Under the Constitution, the National Land Commission (NLC) and other government agencies are supposed to protect ecologically sensitive areas and that is one of them. Whatever development that is being done must adhere to conservation principles as laid out by the Constitution and the land laws of this country,” he said.

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