KHRC is here today to present the findings of a series of fact-finding missions carried out between March 2011 and April 2014 with the sole purpose of interrogating the validity of community fears in regards to the proposed Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Project. In this respect KHRC is pleased to present, “Forgotten in the Scramble and Partition of Lamu: The Case of the Aweer and the Fisherfolk.” This Position Paper documents concerns voiced throughout KHRC’s collaboration with various community based organizations based in Lamu.
The LAPSSET Corridor Project will usher in an extensive industrial and infrastructural system that is powered by an emerging local oil economy. The Project aims to, among others, catalyze regional trade between Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, ultimately, a wider reach, as far as Cameroon. Locally, the Project aspires to create jobs and opportunities for business as well as access to social amenities within a region - Northern part of Kenya - which has, historically, been condemned to its own devices. It is illustrative that the arid North remains the hub of long-standing economic marginalization in Kenya.
Under the Economic and Social Rights Programme (ESR) thematic set-up, the KHRC engages with past and contemporary developments relating to the economic, social and cultural rights of communities. The protection of economic, social and cultural rights is integral to sustainable development. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides that protecting and promoting these rights is not solely the obligation of the government; on the contrary, the wider civil society and corporate entities are enjoined in this quest.
While development projects create jobs and open up formerly remote and underpopulated areas, the host communities rarely benefit from these jobs, urbanization and the much needed change. This is because often, members of the host community to majority of development projects in rural Africa cannot immediately qualify for the jobs created, or afford to buy or rent the lovely new houses built or pay for the upgraded education, healthcare, electricity, water and sanitation systems that mega development projects bring. As the new business opportunities created by development projects attract new investors, entrepreneurs and skilled and semi-skilled workers, members of the host community, and particularly indigenous communities have two choices:- i) to engage in the new economy but from a powerless position at the bottom by offering menial, unskilled and semi-skilled labour; or ii) to relocate; be displaced by receding deeper into the periphery to establish a new informal settlements where their now reduced incomes can support a living.
One may argue that those displaced by development projects are almost always paid some compensation to facilitate resettlement and relocate voluntarily, it is important to note that often, the compensation paid or resettlement support given is inadequate to make a fresh start from an empowered position. Consequently, there is need to seriously guard against development projects creating new poverty – greater impoverishment, disempowerment and invisibility; amongst the very host communities that the project was intended to uplift out of poverty. This is what the people of Lamu and particularly the indigenous Aweer fear will and is happening to them.
This resultant position paper raises critical questions on the value, purpose and intended beneficiaries of development projects in Kenya. Whose lives should be positively transformed by the discovery of oil in Kenya or from an investment of the magnitude of the LAPSSET Project? What is the role of the state, international agencies, and the private industrial sector in promoting the interests /human rights of vulnerable populations such as indigenous communities, small scale producers and grossly marginalized host communities, facing the prospect of the introduction of a dominant economic activity?
We welcome you to read the position paper, interrogate it and utilize the lessons learnt towards contributing to a society that respects human rights. The paper is a product of a dedicated team of practitioners and resource persons; too many to enumerate.
The KHRC greatly appreciates the people of Lamu and in particular, the individuals and organisations that make up the Lamu Human Rights Network; with Jafar Omar; Ahmed Famau, Hababa Noor; Hadija Hamid; Muhammed Sadiq; Sharifa Abubakar and Maamun Abubakar warranting specific mention. KHRC also appreciates the invaluable contribution of leaders of the Aweer community, the fisher-folk of Lamu as well as the Lamu Beach Management Unit, Save Lamu, Inuka Kenya Trust and the Secure Project who all must be singled out for gratitude. Your concerns, data gathering and information sharing are the subject of this report. Thank you for trusting the KHRC to articulate these and for your logistical support in validating the same.
The KHRC is also indebted to Andrew Charles Odete for leading the fact-finding mission, information compilation and drafting this position paper, with the support of Maryanne Mburu, Douglas Odhiambo, Fridah Kaimuri, Herman Omiti, Florence Njoroge, Marie Utetiwabo; Jakline Wanja and Paulina Warinda. Great thanks to George Morara, Esther Waweru, Achieng Orero, Maureen Mugesani, Martin Mavenjina, Fred Njehu, Samwel Oyomo, Martin Pepela and Faith Alubbe for providing invaluable support during the fact-finding missions in Lamu.
For their technical insight, the KHRC is indebted to Commissioner Lawrence Mute, Sara Singh, Steph Booker, Hadija Ernst, Davis Malombe, Sylvia Kithinji, Nduta Kweheria and Andrew Songa as well as to well as the KHRC editorial team comprising of Beth Nduta, Vincent Musebe, Julie Kingsland, Francis Akali, Kathleen Rubia and Beryl Aidi.
To our partners, the Norwegian Government, who made this publication possible by providing the financial support necessary to successfully complete this project, we are singularly grateful.
Lastly, the KHRC appreciates the support of its board of directors and secretariat staff in ensuring the successful implementation of this project.