The President of Sister Cities International Ms. Mary Kane, during her first visit to Africa and Kenya chose to visit Mombasa after launching the Eastern Africa Sister Cities (EASC) in Nairobi on February 29 2012. She visited Mombasa to assess the progress of the projects funded by the Sister Cities International’s African Urban Poverty Alleviation Program (AUPAP); meet the leadership of Mombasa city and meet the Local Sister City Committee.
Mombasa city Town Clerk Mr. Tubman Otieno warmly received the president's entourage who included Sister Cities Membership Director Adam Kaplan; SCI Consultant Lorna K Johnson; Eastern Africa Sister Cities Regional President James Shikwati; and Raymond Kiptum, Program Manager, Eastern Africa Sister Cities.
“We are friendly and welcome visitors who add value to our city. We are keen to attract investors and other partners who are willing to support us to improve our town,” he said.
Among the projects that the President visited include the Ganjoni water purification plant where water is being purified to make them fit for human consumption and Utange community clinic which is under renovation. Others places visited included the Likoni orphanage, Ganjoni water purification project, Shikadabu clinic and the Utange ophanage.
The President was impressed by the kind of welcome she was accorded while in Mombasa and the state of the projects.She encouraged the leadership of the city to seek more partnership with other cities in the region and globally. She advised that the Sister City relationships are more than humanitarian assistance and pointed out other benefits of twinning such as cultural and educational exchanges.
"While these projects are aimed at improving the living conditions of urban communities, they are just one of many potential projects that come as a result of sister city exchanges. U.S. communities have sent students, professors, technical professionals, business people, artists, and everyday citizens on delegation visits around the world to work on cooperative projects," the President observed.
Mombasa is twinned with three cities in the USA: Longbeach, Seattle and Honolulu cities. The Seattle-Mombasa Sister City, established in 1981, seeks to promote cultural and educational exchanges, trade and tourism between the two cities.
Honolulu- Mombasa Sister City was officially launched on August 31, 2000, because of their historical importance as islands of commercial, social, educational and political influence. As a result, they stand to not only benefit from sharing their experiences in these areas but also in combining their efforts at influencing future generations for a peaceful world.
Longbeach-Mombasa Sister City relationship was established in the year 2007.There are plans to have a partnership between Mombasa and other cities which include Durban City. This will be a perfect showcase of a successful South -South twinning.
The Long Beach-Mombasa Sister Cities Local Community Committee was officially inaugurated on the 30th September 2010 by election of the interim officials to run and oversee the projects intended under AUPAP. The committee is chaired by Ms. Amina Zubedi. The Committee intends to carry out projects in water, health & sanitation within the Mombasa Municipality. The Sister Cities team together with the Local committee conducted a survey to establish the priority needs in the Mombasa Municipality health clinics. It came to light that the clinics lacked medical equipment and clean water for use. A list of requirements was drawn and at the moment they are expecting the first two containers of medical equipment and bedding.
Mombasa residents experience shortages of fresh water.The committee intends to set up projects to install Water Plants for desalination and purification of water to be used in some municipal clinics. Ganjoni clinic is one of the clinics that are already benefiting from the projects. Other proposed sites include Utange, Magongo and Mwakirunge clinics.
According to the chairperson of the LCC Ms. Amina Zubida, their ambition is to extend these projects to all parts of Mombasa and venture into other avenues that will improve the state of the city and the living standards of the residents. She notes that the city hosts many tourists and therefore should be made as attractive as possible. “We envisage well equipped clinics which can serve the Mombasa community without any shortfalls. In future, we intend to venture into more water projects and sanitation services such as recycling of garbage to a more useful facility and at the same time reduce or do away with dangerous diseases caused by the unclean and pollunted environment,” Amina says.
As from July 2011, an advocacy organization known as Common Cause joined the Sister City committee and started an advocacy campaign namely Mombasa Water Accountability Campaign. They started a campaign on water kiosks in Mombasa to ensure the kiosks abide by the rules and regulations of Mombasa Water Supply and Sanitation Company (MOWASCO) by selling water at recommended price, maintain hygiene and stop direct connection from the main pipes thus denying the surrounding residents water for their home use. Before this campaign, unscrupulous water vendors sold water to the residents of Mombasa with exaggerated prices and did not adhere to sanitation. This campaign has been uploaded by the residents who have since lead to more accountability and more hygienic water stations.
According to Amina, Mombasa like any other urban area has several challenges waiting to be addressed, such as, street families which have posed as security threat and health hazardous. The number of these families is growing very fast to an extent of posing insecurity. Another challenge is early a pregnancy which is accompanied by child prostitution which she believes is a result of lack of proper policies in the tourism Industry. It takes the effort of all stakeholders which include the Government, business community, NGOs and the society in general to help do away with these vises through economic empowerment. Such avenues can be shared by the sister cities on how they have dealt or can deal with this common challenges.
Ms. Alice Maitha who is the Chair Person of the Mombasa Seattle Sister Cities committee observed that the president’s visit was a great honor to the Mombasa community.
“The president’s Visit to Mombasa and specifically Utange, was a great honor and we appreciate. We felt there are people who care about us and want to be our friends,” she commented.
Alice is also the CEO and Founder of Palm International, an NGO that aims at improving the social economic well-being of the marginalized communities. Alice is a patron of Wakesho group that trains men and women from Vulnarable communities on aspects such as tailoring, carpentry, masonry and other income generating activities among other activities that aim at improving the lives of the residents of the community. She is also the Patron of Tarumbeta women group that uses coconut parts to produce many valuable products.
According to Alice, Sister City relationship has a good mission and can be used to benefit the wider Mombasa community. Mombasa can use such benefits to spur self-reliance and equity.
“I envision areas which have been considered as Urban- Rural, like Utange, having the same infrastructure such as hospitals, street lights and other facilities as the other parts of the city,” noted Alice, the Project coordinator for Utange AUPAP project.
By Raymond Kiptum
Program Manager, Eastern Africa Sister Cities.