Lamu, KENYA: At least 4000 fishermen displaced by the ongoing Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor project-Lapsset have opposed a decision to deny them monetary compensation and only compensate them in kind.
The decision to offer only comparable compensation to the fishermen was arrived at by the Taskforce on Compensation of Fishermen Affected by the Development of the Lamu Port.
In a heated meeting with the Taskforce on Sunday, the fishermen stated that they will not accept anything less than cash after their livelihoods were destroyed by the ongoing dredging activities in the Indian Ocean which has seen traditional fishing channels totally closed off and destroyed.
During the release of the task force report on the mode of compensation for the fishermen at the Majlis Hotel in Lamu last Friday,Lapsset Project Manager Oremo had ruled it any chances of monetary compensation for the fishermen and insisted that they would only be paid in kind which means they only get tools, training and any other formal support to enable adapt to fishing on the deeper and higher seas on the ocean.
However, the situation turned stormy and ugly when the task force met the individual fishermen and their representatives at the Mwana Arafa Hotel on Sunday where the latter demanded that they be paid in cash just like the court ruled.
In May this year, the Malindi High court ruled in favor of the 4,734 fishermen and awarded them a compensation package of Sh.1.76 Billion which the fishermen now say must be shared equally among all the individual affected fishermen.
The court argued that the Lapsset project failed to meet basic constitutional and legal requirements and had also violated the Lamu community’s cultural rights.
The Lamu Fishermen Association chairperson Mohamed Somo accused the Lapsset of trying to sabotage and twist the court decision by attempting to force the issue of comparable compensation.
He said the affected fishermen had reached a unanimous decision to abandon fishing altogether since it no longer benefits them having been destroyed by activities at the Lapsset like dredging.
“We won’t take anything less than the cash. We went to court and won fairly and were awarded compensation which is to be paid to us in cold cash and not what these people are trying to tell us. As it is right now, most fishing grounds are already decimated and many of us are no longer interested in fishing anymore. We want the money so we can pursue other things. Fishing is dead and they know it,” said Somo.
The fishermen have threatened to head back to court and accused the Lapsset management of arm twisting.
The compensation taskforce report had stated that the comparable compensation for the fishermen would entail providing the fishers with medium sized fishing vessels equipped with contemporary fishing aid, provision of outboard engines and provision of intensive training to capacity build fishers in order to enable their transition flawlessly from Coastal water fishing to offshore fishing.
The Fishermen will also be provided with iceboxes, market stalls and refrigerated trucks.
However, the fishermen stated that what they Lapsset claims as comparable compensation were actually the duties of the devolved government which should be undertaken as a duty and not a favor considering the fact that Fishing was a devolved function.
“Whatever they claim they will do as comparable compensation is a duty of the court government.Its the county government that should improve our landing sites and buy all those equipment. Someone somewhere is trying to sabotage this process and con us out of this money as usual but our stand is, cash, no less no more,” said Mohamed Shariff a fisherman.
Lamu fishermen who have suffered for over seven years under the strain of the night fishing ban now say its time to hang their gloves and turn to something else to survive since the ban, coupled with many other factors had totally destroyed the sector rendering it counterproductive.
“At this point, all we want is that hard cash, we are tired of chasing shadows. The Lapsset must respect the court ruling and pay us accordingly. We are no longer interested in being fishermen. They can take their comparable compensation elsewhere but for us, cash,” said Ali Hajji, the chairperson of the Mwambore Beach Management Unit-BMU on the Lamu-Somalia border area of Kiunga.