The government rescued a Chinese businessman from protesting seafarers who accused him of owing them Ksh 1.97 million and leaving them stranded in Malindi, Kilifi County.
The Chinese national had lent his vessel to a Korean national who reportedly vanished after securing the service of the 15 seafarers.
Officials from the Kenya Maritime Authority, the Kenya Coast Guard, Ministry of Labour and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) intervened on Friday, September 11, and reportedly ordered the Kenyans to accept a lesser pay of Ksh 630,000 to be shared amongst themselves or leave empty-handed.
“We are appealing to the government to intervene and bring these people to book because we have been left without food and other necessities since our employer owes us more than Ksh1.9 million in salaries that he has not paid for the last three months,” one of the seafarers representative had lamented.
An altercation ensued on Saturday, September 12 after an American tourist was arrested for intervening on behalf of the Kenyans.
The foreigner had offered to assist the Kenyans with legal representation and other basic commodities. He also reportedly created unrest and led protests outside the vessel after he tried to insist that the seafarers demand be met.
“Is the American not a human being. How many people have been arrested and are serving terms in jail?
“What is so special about the arrest of the foreigner?” Malindi Sub County Police Commander Stephen Lekuta ranted in response to the American’s arrest before releasing him without pressing charges.
The seafarers agreed to take the Ksh 630,000 offer with some lamenting that they had no other option as they had families to feed.
International Transport Workers’ Organization (ITF) Betty Makena, however, argued that the seamen did not have a legit contract with their employer which would have helped to determine their demands.
A Kenyan who claimed to be a representative of the Chinese added that his boss’ act was a favour to the seafarers as he had stepped in to meet their demands to solve the debacle and repair his ship, which had been held hostage by the seamen.