A set of grievances by residents threatening to rock the commissioning of the new Lamu port which has been hailed as an economic game-changer in the region.
The Lamu Community Platform has vowed to oppose the new Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor project commissioning this month until all grievances by the community are fully addressed.
The commissioning of operations of the first berth at the Lamu Port is set to take place on October 20 , presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Residents are, however, adamant that their grievances be addressed before the port launches operations
The Lamu Community Platform, a group bringing together various community-based organisations (CBOs) and activists including representatives from the Lamu Council of Elders, Save Lamu Organisation, Lamu Marine Forum, Sauti ya Wanawake wa Lamu, Shungwaya Indigenous Community Welfare Association, and the Lamu Youth Alliance, has expressed concern over the manner in which the government has handled matters touching on the port project.
Addressing journalists at Tushauriane Conference Hall in Lamu Town, the platform members demanded that the national government engages the local community on sharing of resources and allocation of jobs, particularly on all direct and indirect revenue collected from the Lapsset facility. They said a clear formula should be designed so that both the county and the community can get their share of revenue just like the way was done recently in Turkana County.
Lamu Community Platform Spokesperson, who is also the chairman of Save Lamu Organization, Mohamed Abubakar said they want at least 25 percent of revenue from Lapsset once it commences operations to be channelled directly to the county government and the Lamu community.
“We’re tired of the injustices that are being done to the people of Lamu. They’ve sidelined us in decision making on issues to do with the Lapsset project. We now want President Uhuru Kenyatta to first meet us before launching the project. We’ve so many grievances that need to be addressed,” Mr Abubakar said.
He said they want 20 percent of revenue acquired from the project to be channeled directly to the county for development projects and another 5 percent of proceeds from the project to go towards the Lamu Community Trust Fund.
“We want the project to have a great impact on our lives as a local community,” he said
The group also demanded immediate compensation of the more than 4,000 fishermen affected by Lapsset dredging activities taking place at the port site in Kililana and fast-tracking of Lapsset Presidential Scholarship Programme in which 1,000 students from Lamu are scheduled to pursue higher education as directed by former President Mwai Kibaki.
Mr Mohamed Athman, a member of the Lamu Community Platform and who is also the Lamu Marine Forum Chairman questioned why the Presidential programme has slowed.
“They’re taking forever in implementing the recruitment of local youth to the presidential scholarship programme. We were told 1,000 youth would be recruited in five phases. Many years have passed with only 400 youth recruited so far,” said Mr Athman.
“We want the remaining 600 youth to be recruited before the Lapsset begins operations or else we will seek legal redress on the matter.”
The residents also want formation of a community-driven Lapsset Steering Committee to safeguard the interests of indigenous communities in the mega project.
Lamu Council of Elders Chairman Sharif Salim, who also holds a similar position at the Lamu Community Platform, urged the government to set up a survey team to monitor and evaluate already disrupted potential loss of livelihoods and put in place mitigation measures.
“We want the government to look into already infringed community livelihoods in fisheries, farming and tourism under the agenda of county economic growth, capacity building and infrastructure development,” said Mr Salim.
The platform also seeks to ensure “immediate compensation and formal relocation” of farmers in Kililana and Kwasasi, saying their livelihoods have been compromised.
The group wants the government to give Lamu youth priority when hiring employees for the port
“Most of the 400 youth recruited under the Lapsset Presidential Scholarship have completed their studies but have no job. We demand a transparent and reliable mechanism set to absorb these youth at the Lapsset,” said Mr Khaldun Vae, an elder.
“We’re told most of the Lamu port workers are recruited from outside Lamu and this is not right at all. We’re educated and we deserve the opportunity at the Lapsset.”
The forum has given the state two weeks to respond to their grievances. If nothing is done, they have threatened to demonstrate and seek legal redress.
“We want the government to consider our humble requests within two weeks before any commissioning event takes place at the Lapsset,” said Mr Mohamed Mbwana of the Shungwaya Indigenous Community Welfare Association.
The Lapsset project plan includes a 32-berth port; transportation hubs for rail, highway and international airports in Lamu, Isiolo and Lodwar; an oil pipeline from South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia to Lamu Port; and an oil refinery and three resort cities in Isiolo, Lamu and Turkana.
Currently the first berth is 100 percent done while two other berths are at 55 percent completion rate.
In a recent interview with Shipping, Lapsset Corridor Development Authority (LCDA) Director General Silvestre Kasuku said the two berths will be ready by the end of 2020.
“Preparations are in top gear for the commissioning of operations of the first berths at the Lapsset site in Kililana. The general Lapsset completion rate is at 72 percent completion rate,” said Mr Kasuku.
The Sh2.5 trillion Lamu port project is being funded fully by taxpayers.