Hurdles cleared for Lamu fishermen to be paid Sh1bn

Matondoni Beach Management Unit chairperson Abdu Mahmoud (centre ) at a press briefing.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation Media Group

There is a ray of hope for over 4,000 fishermen displaced by the construction of the Sh310 billion Lamu Port to get compensation.

Following the signing of an agreement with the Lamu County Government, the fishermen will get Sh1.76 billion in compensation after a seven-year wait.

Lamu Governor Issa Timamy, together with the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) legal team and other officials, presided over the signing of the Fishermen Compensation Agreement at the Mokowe County Headquarters on Monday.

A total of 4,102 fishermen out of the initial 4,734 will be paid after being cleared by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) which did a scrutiny and validation of the recipients.

In May 2018, the High Court in Malindi awarded 4,734 fishermen Sh1.76 billion as compensation owing to the adverse effects brought about by the dredging done for the construction of the Lamu Port's first three berths at Kililana site.

The fishermen told the court that they were no longer able to carry on with their work due to dredging, which affected their income.

They said that their lives would eternally suffer and, as such, deserved compensation to enable them to pursue alternative sources of making their daily bread.

But since the court ruling, the State has been promising to release the money.

In April 2023, however, the anti-graft agency halted the compensation process as KPA identified, verified and approved the bank accounts of the affected fishermen.

The Lamu County Government had raised concerns that some of the fishermen listed as beneficiaries were not genuine.

The EACC had stopped the fishermen’s payment pending investigations into reports that ghost beneficiaries had been included in the final list in the hope of getting a share of the Sh1.76 billion compensation package.

The Lamu County Government had even refused to sign the agreement with the fishermen.

After the deal was signed, Mr Timamy said that he is committed to ensuring that only eligible fishermen who were displaced by the Lamu Port construction over a decade ago and left without any alternative livelihoods are compensated.

He urged the compensation task force consisting of the County Government of Lamu, Lapsset, Lamu Port, Save Lamu, the office of the Attorney-General, Beach Management Units and the EACC to expedite the payment process following the completion of investigations by the anti-graft body.

Mr Timamy said that his administration will support all projects under the Lapsset since they will spur economic growth in Lamu and the region at large.

"I thank the EACC for carrying out verification for the beneficiaries to ensure legitimate farmers get paid,” he said.