•The fishermen are seeking compensation for destroyed livelihoods.
•They fear the compensation process might be hijacked.
Lamu residents whose land was acquired for development of the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset) project have accused the government of reneging on a court directive to compensate them.
In May, 2018, the Malindi High Court awarded a compensation package of Sh 1.76 billion to fishermen displaced by the new port following a successful petition.
The over 4000 fishermen had sought legal redress,saying they would no longer be able to carry on with their fishing activities as dredging activities at the new port had destroyed their traditional fishing channels.
As such, their livelihoods would eternally suffer,hence deserved compensation to enable them pursue alternative livelihoods.
Two years down the line, the fishermen allege foul play as their seems to be no plan or intention to compensate them.
Their biggest fear is that there could be a plot to hijack their impending package.
The fishermen have issued a 14 day ultimatum for their issues to be looked into, failure to which they will proceed to court and obtain orders to bar the impending commissioning of the berths and any other activities at the port.
Speaking in Lamu , the fishermen who were accompanied by activists from the Save Lamu organization said the fact that they have been kept in the dark over whether or not the court order will be observed, is reason enough for them to be suspicious of a con game.
The Lamu Fishermen and Beach Management Units-BMUs Chairman Mohamed Somo urged the government to be open on the matter to avert squabbles.
“The court told them(Lapsset) to pay us but they are not showing any signs of doing so and these being Kenya, we know its just a matter of time before tries to hijack this whole thing. But we are very alert and must see progress,”said Somo.
Lamu Fishermen and Dealers Association Spokesperson Abubakar Twalib said it was their biggest hope that they will be compensated before the commissioning of the first three berths at the port whose construction has been completed.
Construction of the first berth was completed in August last year with two more expected to be complete in December this year.
The government, through a contract awarded to China Communication Construction Company, is constructing the first three berths at the proposed 32-berth new sea port.
It is keen to bring on board the private sector and investors to complete the project.
According to Save Lamu Activist Is’haq Khatib, there are various concerns that need to be addressed before the commissioning of the berths, among them compensation of the fishermen and those whose lands were acquired during the expansion of the port premises.
The organization also wants the government to come clear on the fate of the 1,000 Lamu students who were to be sponsored by Lapsset to undergo port-related training so as to enable them get employed once the port becomes operational.
The selection was to take place in five tranches of 200 students each year.
Only 400 have been recruited and trained while the fate of the remaining 600 hangs in the balance.
The Save Lamu organization is also agitating for the formation of a community driven Lapsset steering committee to safeguard the interests of indigenous communities ,while at the same time boost participation and community engagement.
“We want our people to be fully compensated. The government must also carry out evaluation of the potential loss of livelihoods and set up mitigations to counter the same,” said Khatib.
Activist Mohamed Athman said there is need for the community to be assured that at least 25 per cent of the direct and indirect proceeds from the port will be channeled to the community just like the case of Turkana county and oil proceeds.
“We also want the government to set up mechanisms to accommodate Lamu youth in job opportunities by ensuring they get first priority before other individuals are employed at the port,”he said.
The Lapsset project includes a 32-berth port, transportation hubs for rail, highway and international airports in Lamu, Isiolo and Lodwar, an oil pipeline from South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia to Lamu Port, an oil refinery and three resort cities in Isiolo, Lamu and Turkana.