COMPENSATION ROW

Jobs, payout dispute stall Sh3.5bn railway works

Landowners demand more compensation, youths claim contractor hires outsiders who pay bribes

In Summary

• Mai Mahiu-Malaba railway line is being rehabilitated, but state only has secured four of the 24km needed as landowners hike compensation demands.

• Local youth demonstrate and demand jobs, saying they are being passed over for youth from other areas. Kenya Railways says it will investigate allegations of bribery for jobs. 

Youths from Jikaze IDP camp in Mai Mahiu, Naivasha, engage police and workers constructing the metre-gauge railway line from Mai Mahiu Industrial Park to Longonot town, on Friday, September 11..
GIVE US WORK: Youths from Jikaze IDP camp in Mai Mahiu, Naivasha, engage police and workers constructing the metre-gauge railway line from Mai Mahiu Industrial Park to Longonot town, on Friday, September 11..
Image: GEORGE MURAGE

Construction of the 24km railway line from Mai Mahiu Industrial Park to Longonot town in Naivasha has been stalled over land compensation disputes.

Angry local youths have stalled work as they demand jobs, saying the Chinese contractor is bypassing them for outsiders who pay a fee.

Two months after work on the Sh3.5 billion project began, Kenya Railways has  managed to access only four kilometres as owners have demanded higher compensation.

 
 

The state has said it won't be arm-twisted into paying above-market prices.

Landowners accused the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the contractor, of failing to address compensation and jobs for residents.

Last Friday, more than 200 residents of Jikaze IDP camp demonstrated and paralysed construction as they demanded jobs. Riot police dispersed the demonstrators.

Naivasha MP Jane Kihara said the project had many problems and the contractor had ignored local leaders.

She said leaders had met the contractor several times and formed committees on hiring local workers but their recommendations had been ignored.

“There are complaints the contractor is working on land without the owners' consent while allegations of bribery for job seekers has become the norm,” she said.

Joseph Njenga from Jikaze IDP camp, through which the railway passes, said getting work was nearly impossible.

 
 

He accused the contractor of hiring youths from other areas who paid a 'fee' and ignoring those in the area, leading to the current delay.

“When the SGR works were ongoing, we missed out and we shall not sit back this time around as outsiders benefit,” he said.

Senior Kenya Railways officer Jonathan Kirwa admitted there was a problem hiring staff as the real work was yet to start.

“We have heard allegations of bribery and we shall definitely work with the contractor to address this issue,” he said.

He said that of the 24km line, they had only acquired four kilometres where the earth work was underway as they sorted the compensation issue.

“The contractor has hired very few people as the real work is yet to begin due to issues of compensation. We are calling for patience as we sort the disputes first," Kirwa said.

While visiting the industrial park in Mai Mahiu a week ago, Rift Valley regional commissioner George Natembeya said officials were addressing the problems.

He warned landowners hiking prices, saying the state would not be arm-twisted into compensation above the current fair market prices.

“We have come to realise the amount used to compensate affected facilities equals that used in government projects and we need to address this," he said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

 

Youths from Jikaze IDP camp in Mai Mahiu, Navasha, demand jobs in construction of the metre-gauge railway from Mai Mahiu Industrial Park to Longonot town. Demonstration on Friday, September 11.
WE WANT JOBS: Youths from Jikaze IDP camp in Mai Mahiu, Navasha, demand jobs in construction of the metre-gauge railway from Mai Mahiu Industrial Park to Longonot town. Demonstration on Friday, September 11.
Image: GEORGE MURAGE