The wrangle over establishment of a power and irrigation project in Elgeyo Marakwet has deepened, with the county leadership turning down an invitation to a retreat by a State agency to iron out thorny issues.
Governor Alex Tolgos says they will not take part in the planned retreat organised by Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA). All elected leaders in the county were invited.
“I have seen the invitation but not a single official of my government, or member of the county assembly, will take part in the retreat. Instead, we are advising KVDA to engage the families targeted for relocation first before reaching out to us,” said the governor.
“Why should we be called to hotel workshops when there are myriad challenges associated with controversies and confusion on the ground? We have decided to ignore such invitations until all the residents have agreed with KVDA on the modalities of proper compensation and relocation in meaningful public participation exercises,” said Governor Tolgos.
KVDA is overseeing implementation of the Sh35 billion Arror muti-purpose dam in Marakwet West sub-county alongside Kimwarer multi-purpose dam in Keiyo South sub-county that would cost Sh28 billion.
The projects run concurrently, according to the authority, but the standoff could affect their implementation.
According to Mr Tolgos, the government needs to address the plight of families that were displaced to pave the way for establishment of national projects, citing the people displaced from their ancestral land in Kapsowar town, Marakwet West sub-county, Tambach in Keiyo North sub-county, and Talaal in Keiyo South sub-county.
About 47 families in Kapsowar were relocated to public land near Chebara centre to allow for the establishment of a district headquarters in Kapsowar, while more than 100 others in Tambach were moved elsewhere to pave the way for establishment of a teachers training college.
About 200 other families displaced in Talaal had their land utilised by Kerio Valley Development Authority, said the governor, adding that all the families are suffering due to their patriotism and there is no way any other household would agree to relocate until proper compensation is made.
“These affected households were patriotic enough to accept to move out, but to date they live in regret. They have never been issued with title deeds for the land they were relocated to,” said the governor.
“We can never get excited over the huge multi-billion shilling funding for the establishment of both Arror and Kimwarer hydro-electric and irrigation multi-purpose dams if the projects are coming at the expense of our people, who end up paying the price of losing their land and source of livelihoods,” said Mr Tolgos.
But KVDA, in response, told Nation it was convinced that its programmes would ultimately succeed despite teething problems.
He asked Mr Tolgos and the county government to exercise caution even if they disagree with the agency’s planned retreat for all elected leaders from the region.
“KVDA will continue engaging the remaining respective communities in Kipsaiya and Kapmaramam who are yet to accept this undertaking,” said KVDA board of management director Nixon Boisio.
He said the county government was not a custodian of people’s farms in the county, adding that Governor Tolgos did not necessarily have the final say on whether the project would commence or stall.
The two mega projects are in Kerio Valley, Elgeyo Marakwet county. The current standoff between stakeholders could derail the process.