UNFULFILLED PROMISE

Lamu millionaires languish in poverty as state withholds payout

Scores have died waiting for the monies while others hold onto hope

In Summary
  • Lamu Beach Management Units Network chairperson Mohamed Somo said at least 40 fishermen have died before receiving their compensation.
  • He said many others are stressed and depressed as the fate of their compensation hangs in the balance.
Lamu fishermen spokesperson Mohamed Somo (centre)adresses journalists as he agitated for their compensation.
Lamu fishermen spokesperson Mohamed Somo (centre)adresses journalists as he agitated for their compensation.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES

Thousands of Lamu residents displaced by the Sh310 billion Lamu port project continue to live in poverty as the state holds their compensation running into billions of shillings.

For years, the promise that they would eventually be compensated for acres of land they willingly gave out for the project have failed to materialise as the concerned dockets continue to take them in circles.

Scores have died waiting for the monies while others hold onto the hope that they will eventually get paid before they die.

This is despite some of the projects having already been completed and are operational.

Among these people are the 4,734 fishermen whose livelihoods were cut short by the establishment of the Lamu port-LAPSSET.

Dredging activities at the port caused the closure of many traditional fishing sites in the Indian Ocean and rendered thousands of fisher folk without a source of livelihood.

In May 2018, following a successful petition, the Malindi High Court ruled in favour of the fishermen indicating the project had failed to meet basic constitutional and legal requirements.

The court awarded the 4,734 fisher folk compensation of Sh1.76 billion as the port project was proved to have violated the local community’s cultural rights.

They were to receive the monies before May 15  to pave way for the opening of the port on May 20.

Close to four years later, the port has since been operationalised yet the fishermen have yet to receive a dime.

In a previous communique, Kenya Ports Authority Head of Corporate Affairs Bernad Osero said the authority was working towards resolving a few legal issues after which the fishermen will be promptly paid the monies.

“We are waiting for the government and Save Lamu lawyers to agree on the wording of the consent note after which we will begin compensation. That will happen anytime because, the money is there and everything else is set,” he said.

Osero said the authority had since met with the individual fishermen and asked them to convince their lawyers to agree on how to sign the consent note before the money is disbursed.

Lamu Beach Management Units Network chairperson Mohamed Somo said at least 40 fishermen have died before receiving their compensation.

He said many others are stressed and depressed as the fate of their compensation hangs in the balance.

“Not a month goes by before we lose a fishermen on the compensation list. I can confirm 40 who have died from the stress of waiting. I can equally count hundreds of others who are ailing at the moment partly because of this," he said.

A similar scenario is facing hundreds of residents displaced by the construction and expansion of the 135-kilometre Lamu-Witu-Garsen road, another Lapsset infrastructure in the region.

The Sh10.8 billion road project was completed and officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 20, 2021, the same date that he operationalised the first berth at the new Lamu Port site in Kililana.

Despite this, the displaced persons have yet to be compensated contrary to an earlier agreement that had indicated they would be paid their monies three years back.

Abdalla Lali,60, a madrassa teacher whose house was demolished to pave way for the road, has yet to lay hands on his Sh5.6 million compensation.

He was forced to put up with relatives together with his wife and seven children in the hope that the payout would come fast to enable him buy land and build another house for his family.

“Life has been tough living with other people. I had wanted Sh10 million for the land and assets but after valuation, they approved Sh5.6 million which is still okay with me. The problem is, it seems not to be coming. It’s been three years yet nothing,”  Lali said.

He says he struggles to put his children through school, something he would have easily done if the money came through.

“I have been to all offices including the county commissioner’s trying to follow up but nothing,” he said.

Mohamed Abdulrahman,55, has yet to receive his Sh8.8 million compensation while 70-year-old Salim Hassan and a father of nine, is slowly losing hope of ever getting his Sh3 million as he now battles a terminal disease.

“I wish the state would be forthright about this matter. Should we hope or not. I actually think I will die before I see that money because I am very sick and there is no hope for me to recover,” Hassan said.

Another group of residents who have yet to set sight on their compensation are those affected by the ongoing construction of the 257-kilometre Lamu-Ijara-Garissa Lapsset Corridor Access Road.

The project is part of the Sh17.9 billion Lamu Port  Development Road Project network whose construction commenced in April 2021.

The project is currently at 40 per cent and is estimated to take 24 months.

All the affected persons have yet to be compensated despite the work being in progress on their lands.

“They said we would be compensated before works began but that hasn’t been the case because the works are on yet no word on our compensation. We feel someone wants to play games with us like they have done with the rest,” Abdallah Swaleh said.

In his response, Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia assured all they would be paid their monies in due time and called for patience.

“No genuine landowner will miss their compensation. We’re waiting for the National Lands Commission to finalise some particulars before releasing the cash to undertake the respective compensation for those affected by the Lapsset Corridor projects. There is a need for patience,”  Macharia said.

 

 

-Edited by SKanyara

Lamu fishermen agitate for their LAPSSET compensation monies during a presser in Lamu island.
Lamu fishermen agitate for their LAPSSET compensation monies during a presser in Lamu island.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES
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