Economy

Four rights groups join suit opposing Sh1.6tr Lamu port

A judge has allowed four human rights organisations to join a petition seeking to block the building of the multi-billion shilling Lamu port.

Sitting in Malindi, Lady Justice Christine Meoli accepted an application to include The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Centre for International Environmental Law, and Katiba and Muhuri as parties to the petition by a group of Lamu residents opposing the project.

The residents through lawyers Paul Muite and Abraham Korir have also asked the Chief Justice to constitute a three-judge Bench to hear the case on the grounds that it raises substantial questions of constitutional law. The application will be argued on June 25.

The group said the petition was to ensure the project does not infringe the people’s constitutional rights.

Mohammed Ali Baadi, who is leading the group, argues that undertaking the proposed project in its current form would violate rights of the communities living within Lamu and its environs.

He alleges that in January 2009 a government delegation which visited the area affirmed that about 6,000 families could be displaced by the port and verbal assurances were made on compensation “but so far, there has been nothing concrete or in writing.”

They are seeking court orders to block the implementation of the proposed $20 billion (about Sh1.6 trillion) project on grounds that the government has not carried out a consultative environmental impact assessment “despite obvious dangers.”

The petitioners are also seeking an injunction restraining the government from constructing or developing the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport until such safeguards are put in place.

The group has sued the Attorney- General, ministers for Environment, Lands, Information, Transport, Roads and Public Works and Energy.

Other respondents are the Kenya Ports Authority and the National Environment Management Authority.

Their lawyers said the proposed project would have negative impact on the community’s culture, economy and environment.

Upon completion, the port will comprise an international airport, a refinery, a transport network and a pipeline covering Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The two heads of State have allowed a pipeline and fibre optic connections between the oil fields in South Sudan and Lamu port.

The pipeline will be developed through Kenyan territory and will be built and owned by South Sudan although the two countries will negotiate and agree on transit fees for the pipeline.