Kenya: Lamu Residents File Legal Petition on the Multi-Billion Lamu Port Project

by Jan 26, 2012Big Cats

Lamu community members filed a legal petition yesterday at the Milimani Courts in Nairobi arguing that the Government of Kenya (GOK) has violated several sections of the new constitution with its implementation of the proposed Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET). This has been by failing to provide information, consult the community, and carry out an environmental impact assessment. The case will be heard in Malindi on February 8th, 2012.

LAPSSET will consist of a standard gauge railway line, a port, a super highway, a regional international airport, an ultra-modern tourist resort, an oil pipeline, and a fibre-optic cable constructed to link Lamu to Juba and Addis Ababa. However, the heart of the project is the proposed Lamu port, which to-date the petitioners stated that the affected communities have not been consulted nor provided with information on the project. Whilst the project is set to be launched in February by President Mwai Kibaki, the local communities are still learning about it from news clippings and other media outlets. The lack of information is exemplified a confrontation between the Ministry of Land and the Kililana Farmers’ Association on January 22nd in Lamu after the surveyors tore through some farms to survey the proposed Lamu port road and pave way for the presidents’ entourage without informing or compensating them.

Additionally, the petitioners cite that the GOK has not carried out an environmental impact assessment, failed to address the pending land issues, or initiate a mitigation and conservation plan of the area that involves the affected communities. Since the onset of the port project, Lamu has been a hot spot for land speculators who have been procuring land with the knowledge of the administration despite the fact that there are pending land settlement issues that ought to be resolved after the creation of the National Land Commission. While most of the community members filing the petition support the having a new port for Kenya, their concerns are that the existing plans have no mitigation plans despite the close proximity of the port to the Lamu World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.

Due to a prolonged period of having their letters of appeal to the GOK demanding involvement in the planning and implementation being ignored since they were first informed of the project in 2009, the Chief petitioner, Mohammed Ali Baadi, from Lamu Environmental Protection and Conservation, together with Save Lamu, Lamu Youth Alliance, Lamu Council of Elders, Wanaharakati Okoa Lamu, and community members , Ali Shaibu Shekuwe, Mohamed Mbwana Shee, Abubakar Mohamed Ali, and Umulkher Ali decided to take the matter to court.

“Lamu people have had a prosperous Port and maritime economy for centuries…they cannot oppose the construction of a new modern port,” asserted Mohammed Ali Baadi, the Chief petitioner. “What they are opposed to is the ‘secrecy’ in which the project is being implemented, the failure to implement an environmental impact assessment (EIA), and the lack of consultation with Lamu people.”

The groups and individuals are representing over 15 other community groups that aim to later join the petition as interested parties, and over 1,000 community members who have signed a petition to give Save Lamu the mandate to speak on their behalf on the matter. The respondents from the GOK are the Ministers for Environment and Natural Resources, Lands, Information and Communication, Transport, Roads and Public Works, Energy, the Kenya Ports Authority and the National Environment and Management Association.

Using pro-bono legal services provided by Mr. Korir Sing’Oei and Mr. Paul Muite, the case was filed through Abdulrahman, Saad & Associates Advocates and cited ten(10) articles in the constitution that were violated.

Out of all the articles violated, the right to information has been of great national interest after the Japan Consultants refused to reveal any information on the cost agreement in their contract and the tendering process when questioned by the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing in December 2011. This raised numerous concerns on the poor transparency of the Lamu port project. It is due to this that other national agencies including the Nairobi-based INUKA Kenya Trust and Development Policy and Management Forum (DPMF) are supporting the organisations to file the petition and the Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) have vowed to join the petition.

International support for the petition has also been vowed by Natural Justice, a South African-based NGO, and the International Coalition of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, and supported by over 700 online petitioners around Kenya and the globe.

Please click to see the Press Statement as read by by Mohammed Ali Baddi

For more information, please contact:

Abubakar Al-Amudy
Chairperson, Save Lamu
P.O. Box 314-80500, Lamu
Tel: +254 (0)722-205-988