Fishermen affected by the Lamu Port (Lapsset) project have accused the national government of shortchanging them after failing to honour a promise to have them compensated before the port is operationalised.
Last Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta officially commissioned the port in an event that saw the first cargo vessel dock at the facility’s first berth in Kililana, Lamu West. But speaking in Lamu, the fisher folks expressed disappointment that despite having been promised to be compensated before the Lamu Port is launched, nothing has been done.
The port’s dredging activities caused the closure of many traditional fishing sites in Indian Ocean and subsequently left thousands of fishermen without a source of livelihood.
Following a successful petition, the Malindi High Court in May, 2018 ruled in favour of the fishermen, indicating that the project had failed to meet basic constitutional and legal requirements.
As such, the court awarded a compensation package of Sh1.76 billion to a total of 4,734 fishermen, noting that the port project had violated the local community’s cultural rights.
Speaking to the Nation on Sunday, Lamu Fishermen Chairman Mohamed Somo said they feel betrayed by the government especially after they were coerced to resolve the matter out of court.
Mr Somo said they have already initiated plans to go back to court next week to seek justice.
“We are disappointed. We were promised that we would be paid all the Sh1.76 billion before the Lamu Port is launched. They have gone ahead to forcefully commission the port without paying us,” said Mr Somo.
He added: “No one is telling us anything. We haven’t received the payouts or communication on when that shall be done. That means we’re already forgotten. We have consulted with our lawyers and we will be heading to court next week.”
Mbwana Shee, an elder, insisted on the need for the government to move in and speedily compensate the Lamu fishermen to enable them pursue alternative economic ventures.
Mr Shee wants the national government, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the Lapsset Corridor Development Authority and other concerned agencies to go to Lamu and hold talks with the fishermen in order to iron out the issues failure to which they will move to court.
Mr Shee said it was unfair and unrealistic for the government to ignore the fishermen’s compensation concerns despite the fact that they are now locked out of their fishing zones.
Save Lamu Chair Mohamed Athman, who is among the key petitioner’s in the compensation case, condemned the decision by President Kenyatta and officials to launch the port while ignoring the project’s serious issues that were affirmed by the High Court in 2018. He called on KPA and National Treasury to swiftly compensate the fishermen.