Lamu, KENYA: A stakeholder meeting between the Lamu county leadership and the various partners in the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor project-LAPSSET led by Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau on Thursday turned smoky after the county leaders stormed out citing non-cooperation of the part of the government.
The meeting whose main objective was to deliberate on matters land acquisition for the Sh.2.5 Trillion project was taking place at the Majlis Hotel in Shella island before it turned sour moments after commencement.
Also in attendance were officials from the National Lands Commission-NLC, the Ministry of Lands and the Ministry of Petroleum.
The walkout was led by Lamu governor Fahim Twaha, Woman rep Ruweida Obbo and MPs Stanley Muthama of Lamu West and Athman Sharif of Lamu East, all of who said the national government and the NLC had refused to listen to and address their grievances as leaders on the issue of land acquisition for the project.
The NLC has allocated a total of 70,000 acres of land to the Lapsset.
The lands are located at Kililana and Mashunduani areas in Lamu West.
According to the NLC, the 70,000 acres are supposed to cater for among other components of the LAPSSET ;the Lamu Port, the Lamu-Lokichar Crude oil pipeline, the Railway Line and other components.
Part of the land is also to go towards the establishment of the controversial Sh.200 Billion coal-fired powered plant which has been proposed to be set up at Kwasasi area.
The leaders however say the NLC had no right to allocate such a huge acreage of land to the Lapsset before fully compensating all those displaced.
According to the leaders, not all those who were displaced have been compensated even as the state pushes for the continuation of the project.
“The land injustices in this region keep mounting and we are getting tired as leaders. People just want to come and get land and carry on as if the land has no owners. People have been displaced and not been paid a dime, yet they are supposed to look on as the Lapsset and other projects continue, how far can such a situation be. This is too much and must stop,” said governor Twaha.
Twaha said the county leadership would not watch people make decisions for Lamu all the way from Nairobi without bothering to consult with locals nor the leadership.
“You can’t sit in Nairobi with the people of Nairobi to make decisions for the people of Lamu without the input of the host people and their leadership. There is a reason we are devolved. The land in question has so many loose ends that need ironing out. They must come down to us and speak to us and not any other way, things don’t work like that. I can’t have you con my people in broad daylight, not on my watch,” said Twaha.
The leaders accused the government of failing to honor the initial agreement that included fully involving locals in major decisions in the project.
They accused the NLC of attempting to con locals of their lands and also of irregularly extending the acreage initially agreed upon for the Lapsset to the 70,000 acres which they termed ‘shocking’.
Lamu West MP said the state was trying to shoot down all attempts of having fishermen affected by dredging at the Lapsset compensated owing to the fact that many of their fishing channels are slowly being sealed off and subsequently their livelihoods.
“We support all the national projects here, let that be clear. But the thing is, people are playing games with the compensation of our people and that’s what we are not walking away from. Also, the Lappset has secretly added more acreage to the lands they initially acquired and that’s very offensive it’s stealing. Problem is, we found out and raised our concerns but no one wants to sit down with us and listen. We don’t want to reach a situation where such beneficial projects fail to take off because of us and that’s why we are calling for serious, transparent meetings. Justice for the people of Lamu is all we seek,” said Muthama.
Lamu East MP Athman Shariff said “Apparently, the government wants to offer alternative resettlement for those whose lands have been acquired for the coal project, where is this alternative land?. The agreement was for people to receive Sh.800,000 per acre compensation for those lands and that’s what will happen, no less, no more.
Women rep Ruweida Obbo wants the NLC to withdraw a title deed issued to the Lapsset for the 70,000 acres until all loose ends are ironed out.