Lamu fishermen in fresh threat to paralyse port operations

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

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation Media Group

Fishermen displaced during the construction of the new Lamu Port have demanded immediate payment of compensation that was ordered by the court.

The fishermen have threatened to paralyse operations in the next seven days if they will not have received the Sh1.76 billion that was awarded to them three years ago.

In May 2018, the High Court awarded 4,734 fishermen the amount for adverse effects brought about by the construction of the Sh310 billion facility at Kililana area. 

The fishermen had argued that they would no longer be able to carry on with their venture due to dredging activities. 

They said their livelihoods would suffer and, as such, deserved compensation to enable them to seek alternative sources of livelihoods.

The government had this year promised to release the money by the end of May after it was agreed that the processes would be settled out of court but they are yet to be paid.

Addressing journalists in Lamu town on Tuesday, the fishermen led by their respective Beach Management Units (BMU) officials said they will organise demonstrations in a week to demand their rights.

Lamu BMU Chair Abubakar Twalib wondered why the government was taking long to release the money.

Mr Twalib complained that since the Lamu Port started operations after the launch by President Uhuru Kenyatta last May, it has been impossible for them to ply their trade safely since most of their traditional channels are now being used as harbours for large ships docking at the port.

“We wanted the government to fulfil its promise of paying us our Sh1.76 billion as fast as possible. It is now clear that it isn’t willing to do so. In fact, they have opted to be silent, leaving us to suffer. We will camp at the port until our money is released,” he said.

Mr Abdu Mahmoud, the chairperson of Matondoni BMU noted that artisanal fishermen have now been forced to abandon their trade on the safer channels and are now struggling and risking in the high seas.

Mr Mahmoud said they had big plans to expand their trade once paid.

“The Lamu Port has made it extremely impossible for us to survive the high seas with the simple fishing machinery that a majority of us are currently relying upon,” said Mr Mahmoud.

Shela BMU Spokesperson Abdullah Sultan expressed disappointment that there have been promises by the state over the years that the affected fishermen would be compensated.

Mr Sultan, however, lamented the lack of co-operation from the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in finalising the deal and ensuring that the

Lamu fishermen are paid all their dues.

But KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero dismissed claims that the authority was behind the delay and was unwilling to compensate the Lamu fishermen.

“The fishermen’s money is intact with KPA. We have finalised the verification of beneficiaries and bank account numbers of all the affected fishermen. This week, we are organising a special meeting with lawyers from KPA and their lawyers to finalise the pending issues, including signing and clearing of the consent note before compensation can begin,” said Mr Osero. 

Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia also said they were working tirelessly to ensure that the compensation issue was fully resolved.

“We have a meeting this Friday, December 10. The affected fishermen have been invited,” said Mr Macharia.