Lamu County leaders and residents want more talks over a plan to establish a military base in Witu.
More than 30,000 acres in the Nairobi Ranch, which covers part of Witu and Chara/Kipini in Tana River County, have been earmarked for a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) base.
But locals have expressed their reservations, claiming that a section of the land is occupied by residents.
Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama and Lamu Senator Anwar Loitiptip told Nation.Africa that although they support the plan, more consultations are needed between county officials, the national government and the people living on the land.
At least 18,900 acres of land in Witu and 11,100 acres in Tana River’s Chara/Kipini area are expected to be acquired for the KDF base.
Mr Muthama said the government cannot just acquire the land without ensuring that the over 40,000 locals are resettled.
“Some people consider the intended Kipini military land as their ancestral place. We have more than 40,000 locals residing there, with some having lived there for over 30 years,” he said.
“We also have public institutions like schools which are registered and located within the land intended for the military base.”
He said residents must be compensated with either alternative land or cash “so that as we boast about having a military base in our area, we also enjoy living comfortably”.
Senator Loitiptip described the planned military base as crucial, noting that with installations like the Lamu port and a crude oil pipeline, greater security is needed in the region.
He said that considering the infiltration of terrorists and their sympathisers from neighbouring Somalia through the Kiunga border point, more military bases in Lamu will enhance rapid response in the event of an attack.
But he insisted that resettling residents should be a priority.
“Without that, we will get a rebellion from the public, considering that people have lived and invested in the land in question,” he said.
Mr Charo Katana, a community elder in Witu, questioned why the military needs such a large size of land.
“We are already worried about the massive eviction that will happen once the construction of the base kicks off,” he said.
At a public baraza in Witu last weekend, Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata cautioned residents of Lamu and Tana River over incitement against the national government’s plan.