Fishermen displaced by the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project have opposed plans to compensate them in kind.
Instead, the fishermen want monetary compensation.
Last Friday, Lapsset project manager Peter Oremo said during the release of a Taskforce on Compensation of Fishermen Affected by the Development of the Lamu Port report at the Majlis Hotel in Lamu ruled out any monetary compensation for the affected fishermen and instead said they would receive comparable compensation.
This means the fishermen would only get tools, training and any other support instead of cash.
The task force had a stormy session at Mwana Arafa Hotel on Saturday, with the fishermen demanding monetary reward as ordered by a court.
On May 1, the Malindi High Court ruled in favour of the 4,734 fishermen, awarding them Sh1.76 billion compensation to be shared among each individual.
The court found that the Lapsset project fails to meet basic constitutional and legal requirements.
The court found that the government violated the community’s cultural rights and the right to a clean and healthy environment when it started construction of the Lamu Port.
The construction of the first three berths at the site is at 52 per cent complete, with the first berth expected to be ready by December.
Led by the Lamu Fishermen Association Chairman Mohamed Somo, the fishermen are now accusing the Lapsset of trying to force the issue of comparable compensation.
Most of the fishermen argue that a lot of damage has happened to the fishing and fish breeding grounds in the Indian Ocean due to dredging.
As such, they argue it is unrealistic and untenable to force them to continue pursuing a venture that is already dead.
“We demand that each of us be accorded be accorded his share of the cash. Most of us have already decided to quit fishing and use the money to pursue other business ventures. Many of the projects coming to Lamu have destroyed our fishing zones. So giving us outboard engines, improving our landing sites, equipping us with refrigerated trucks won’t do us any good. We want cash or else, we will go back to court again to demand for our rights,” said Mr Somo.
Another fisherman, Mohamed Sheriff, criticised the Lapsset task force for diverting and using the compensation package on duties constitutionally supposed to be done by the county government.
“Fishing is a devolved function. Why is it that the Lapsset board wants to use our compensation money to do duties by the county government? The county should develop and improve our landing sites, buy the outboard engines, iceboxes, refrigerated trucks and other equipment as a move to improve the fishing sector.
"We should be given our cash as fishermen affected by the Lapsset and not what the Lapsset intends to do with the money. We won’t accept anything rather than cash,” said Mr Sheriff.
Mr Ali Haji who is the chairman of the Mwambore Beach Management Unit (BMU) in Kiunga on the Lamu-Somalia border said the court ruling that awarded them Sh 1.76 billion came as a relief to many who were already straining under the night fishing ban and subsequently wanted to quit fishing altogether.
“For the past seven years, fishing has never been the same again. There has been a night fishing ban in our region due to insecurity challenges caused by the Al-Shabaab.
"Many of us are intending to quit fishing since it doesn’t benefit us anymore. We need the cash so that we can educate our children now that we have nothing to pass down on them after the fishing sector which we so much depended upon was destroyed,” said Mr Haji.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Ali Bakari who said, “At this point in time, we just need the money. The damage that has been done to the fishing sector is way beyond what we can deal with.”
Lamu Port manager Peter Oremo said the officials were finalising their discussions with the Lamu fishermen since they are expected to return to court by October this year to submit their findings.
“We plan to seek further legal redress and see where to go now from here on the issue,” said Mr Oremo.