HISTORICAL INJUSTICES

Time for social justice in Lamu is now

In Summary

• In our nation's history, never before have we seen the DPP go to the ground to talk, chat and mingle with the people. The ODPP has always been a far off office to the common citizen.

This week, Haki Africa has been accompanying Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji in Lamu county. He and his team have been moving from one island to another to listen to residents' cries and initiate a dialogue to improve social justice.

Today, Friday, March 22, the DPP will launch Haki Africa's social justice centre in Amu. This will be a hub for the promotion of criminal, historical and social justice in Lamu county. It will be a one-stop shop for human rights, rule of law and justice.

In our nation's history, never before have we seen the DPP go to the ground to talk, chat and mingle with the people. The ODPP has always been a far off office to the common citizen.

That efforts are now being made to ensure even the remotest parts of the country are being given an opportunity to be heard is not just commendable but historical. Never before have the poor and marginalised seen a DPP publicly in their county, let alone sit and share their concerns with him.

Since time immemorial, Lamu has been on the receiving end of social and historical injustices. Local communities, including the Bajunis and Bonis, have decried discrimination and marginalisation in many aspects. Lamu is one of the few counties where locals own less land than non-locals.

The county is currently facing multibillion-shillings projects that have totally disregarded the rights of the local people. They include the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor and the Lamu coal plant.

Since time immemorial, Lamu has been on the receiving end of social and historical injustices. Local communities, including the Bajunis and Bonis, have decried discrimination and marginalisation in many aspects. Lamu is one of the few counties where locals own less land than non-locals

On land matters, land adjudication has been skewed to disfavour local communities for generations. For example, Lamu residents have perennially complained to government authorities about lack of title deeds.

However, successive governments have ignored these complaints and little has been done to address their complaints. While on the mainland communities that have since settled in the county have been issued with title deeds, in the islands, the indigenous have continued to occupy land without title deeds.

With Lapsset, hundreds of families are being displaced without due process. Their land has been taken away by government and the National Land Commission without compensation.

Many families have had their ancestral land taken away for the construction of Lamu Port. Locals have not benefitted from the project construction in form of employment or supply of materials. Yet their land has been taken away and they have been left destitute with nowhere to go. Social justice has been forgotten. 

With the Lamu coal plant untold environmental degradation is threatening the county's pristine ecological abundance, which led the county being acknowledged by Unesco as a world heritage centre.

Various environmental impact assessments by local and international experts have confirmed that the pollution that will be caused by the plant will lead to many dangers, including respiratory diseases and premature births. Residents have said no to the plant and Haki Africa supports them fully on this.

Social justice demands that there be fair distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within society. It calls for the equitable sharing of proceeds of development as well as adherence to the rule of law, constitutionalism and human rights.

For Lamu to achieve this, there is need for state authorities such as the DPP, Director of Criminal Investigations and other state officeholders to dialogue with the local communities and take action to address past and present injustices.

The DPP has taken the first right step and traversed the county from Amu to Siu, Ndau to Kiwayuu and Faza to Witu. But Haki Africa asks that he take action on the many social and historical injustices that have been committed to the people since Independence and have been brought to the attention of his office throughout the week.

Lamu residents have remained patient for decades. The time for social justice is now and all should unite to support initiatives such as this one by the ODPP to ensure justice prevails.

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