Judge refers Lamu port petition to Malindi High Court

The port of Lamu: The Constitutional and Human Rights Court on Thursday referred a petition seeking to block the construction of the multi-billion-shilling Lamu Port to the High Court in Malindi.FILE

The Constitutional and Human Rights Court on Thursday referred a petition seeking to block the construction of the multi-billion-shilling Lamu Port to the High Court in Malindi.
Mr Justice Isaac Lenaola advised a group of Lamu residents opposing the construction of the megaport to file the suit in Malindi, saying the High Court in Nairobi had no jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.
The residents, led by Mr Mohammed Ali Baadi, argue that undertaking the proposed project in its current form would infringe on the constitutional rights of the communities living within Lamu and its environs.
Mr Baadi claims in January 2009 a government delegation visited the area and said about 6,000 families could be displaced and verbal assurances were made on compensation “but there has been nothing concrete or in writing.”
They want the court to issue orders stopping the implementation of the proposed $20 billion (about Sh16 trillion) project on grounds that the government has not carried out a consultative environmental impact assessment “despite obvious dangers.”
Through lawyer Abraham Korir, the petitioners are also seeking an injunction restraining the government from constructing or developing the project— Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport — until safeguards and remedies in respect of the subject matter are put in place.
The group has sued the Attorney General, ministers for Environment, Lands, Information, Transport, Roads and Public Works, Energy and agencies Kenya Ports Authority and National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

Mr Korir says the proposed project would have negative impact on the community’s culture, economy and environment. When ready, the port will comprise an international airport, a refinery, a transport network and a pipeline covering Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Kenya and South Sudan have signed an agreement that will allow for the building of an oil pipeline connecting the two countries.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga and South Sudan President Salva Kiir also agreed to allow for 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. But the petitioners are against the bilateral agreement saying, “no attention has been paid to the local people of Lamu, their identity, lifestyle and orientation when clearly the proposed project will completely redefine their lifestyle.”
The petitioners argue that in undertaking the proposed project, the government solely focused on the economic gains without carrying out a consultative environmental impact assessment.

Further, the residents argue that land speculation that is threatening the tenure of the local communities is growing in the area since works on the proposed project was made public.

World Heritage Site

The residents also said the massive port development will hurt the area’s tourism appeal.
Lamu Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Recently Unesco said a UN agency was on high alert, closely monitoring the port development to ensure the town’s heritage stays intact.
President Kibaki directed immediate implementation of the project and its launch is expected next month.

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