The planned construction of Sh35 billion Arror hydro-electric power and irrigation project in Kerio Valley remained uncertain after a crisis meeting to iron out issues around its establishment ended in disarray.
The meeting, held at Iten KMTC Hall and convened by the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Commissioner Fredrick Ndambuki, was attended by local leaders who failed to unlock a standoff that threatens to derail the project spearheaded by the Kerio Valley Development Authority.
Local leaders led by county Governor Alex Tolgos have clashed with the KVDA management over the construction after affected Arror residents refused to surrender their pieces of land saying they were not consulted.
The stalemate has roped in the provincial administration, which has been trying to mediate in a bid to save the project, set be established in Kipsaiya location in Marakwet West.
The governor has often accused the KVDA of failing to involve the residents who are set to be displaced by the project.
During the meeting the leaders failed to agree on various issues with the KVDA management led by managing director David Kimosop.
When Mr Kimosop stood to give a presentation regarding the implementation of the project, Mr Tolgos shot up saying there was not going to be a meeting when some of the land owners have been taken to court for rejecting the project.
“We cannot go on with these discussions when landowners arrested by police for resisting the project are in court.
"I want to ask the county commissioner and KVDA to declare dropping the court cases first so that this meeting can go on,” said the governor.
“Who are the complainants in the case and were civilians arrested in the first place? Isn’t it because of this project? If you want the meeting to go on, announce here that you are dropping the case and set them free,” said the governor.
The governor said the county government supported the megapower project but that it had concerns over the failure to involve those affected.
The county commissioner, however, told the governor his demands could not be addressed in the meeting infuriating the county boss.
“I respect you but the demands you are making are not meant for this meeting we can discuss in private,” Mr Ndambuki said.
The administrator then asked County Police Commander Tom Odera to explain to the meeting why the police arrested the people in Kipsaiya location who have opposed the project.
As the meeting turned stormy, journalists covering were asked to leave the venue.
“All journalists should get out. We will brief you later,” said the commissioner.
During the brief MD’s presentation before journalists were ordered out, he insisted that KVDA had held over 20 meetings and that all of them had been recorded.
“We have involved all those who will be affected and all the stakeholders,” he said.
The MD said the parastatal will do everything possible to ensure that those displaced are properly compensated.
“I want to assure everybody that we will not undertake this project without ensuring that those who will be displaced are adequately compensated.
Compensation has been the concern of everyone and I give assurance that we will do it according to international standards,” he added.
But Governor Tolgos disputed that saying he was not aware of the meetings.
The crisis meeting was convened after the county government banned KVDA officials from visiting the site of the project until all issues raised were determined.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the leaders addressed a joint press briefing but journalists were not allowed to ask questions.
Drop court cases
After the meeting, Mr Tolgos said there will be no project until the court cases were dropped.
“Without dropping the cases of civilians arrested, their dream to build the project is null and void. We have asked KVDA to go to the ground to convince up to the last man to accept to be part of this process, if they will not do so then they should forget about this project,” he said.
The meeting was attended by MPs James Murgor (Keiyo North), Daniel Rono (Keiyo South) Jane Kiptoo (women Mp), All MCAs and some of the representatives of the families targeted for displacement.
Other invited representatives opposed to the project snubbed the invitations.
The Arror hydro-electric power project, once complete, will generate 60MWs of hydropower to be supplied to the national grid and irrigate 2,000 hectares of land in downstream Kerio valley.