It is absolutely sickening that whenever the long-forgotten Mwembe Tayari market bubbles back into the news, it is in the form of a tiresome blame-game that offers no new perspectives into resolving how to rebuild the market.
Where does this controversy takes us? We do not need a slanging match again over who should take the blame for failure to rebuild the market. We have spent nine years talking and doing nothing about it.
Mwembe Tayari market is no longer a failure of the Mombasa council, but a collective failure of all the town residents.
A Nation report about the gutted market being the hub of narcotic dealings added nothing new to what we already know has been happening.
The last time the market issue surfaced was during a meeting convened in February 2010 by the Somali Community Development Initiative.
In his speech, Mayor Muhdhar said the council planned to put out a tender for the reconstruction of the fire-razed market on a Public-Private-Participation basis.
As my report circulated in the blogs, somebody else in the social media was raising the alarm that the mayor had allowed Somalis to grab the market. This was untrue.
When I asked the chairman of the Mombasa Somali Community if he would encourage its members to bid for the market, he was reluctant, saying: “They will accuse Somalis of grabbing it.” How prophetic!
What is wrong if Somali entrepreneurs with money offer to rebuild it? Isn’t that far better than what it is now?
Just take a look at the nearby former Kenya Bus Services bus park. Two Somali brothers bought it from the bankrupt KBS and rebuilt it as a market with a capacity for 200 stalls.
Each stall was snapped up by hawkers and they are doing a thriving business. The place is clean and security tight. It is managed by an estate agency on behalf of the brothers.
The same can be done for Mwembe Tayari. The council estimates it will require Sh1 billion to rebuild it.
I suggest the council forms a Mwembe Tayari Market Reconstruction Committee with the following as stakeholders:
The council, the tycoon who built the two upper storeys as car-park for his Nawal Centre Complex, the Hawkers Association of Mombasa, and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The first thing to be done is to withdraw all pending court cases involving the council, hawkers and the tycoon.
He should be given the first option of rebuilding the market and letting it out to hawkers on the same terms given to those in the Somali-owned market.
Beyond this market issue, we need to address the issue of tapping revenue sources for the council. We cannot ask it to deliver on a shoestring budget.
Since 1995, the council has been seeking, unsuccessfully, to charge $12 per tonne on goods offloaded at Kilindini Port.
It has also sought to impose a bed levy on tourist hotels. Early this year it wanted to introduce a garbage collection levy.
All these measures have been frustrated by way of court injunctions. We cannot eat our cake and have it. The council needs money to finance services.
What is in dispute is how much money it ought to raise in fees and levies and how it proposes to spend the money.
Can all those involved in the court injunctions sit down with council officials and work it out amicably?
Mr Warsama is a veteran journalist. (firstname.lastname@example.org)