The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Ugenya and Ugunja Reject Siaya World Bank Dam

RESIDENTS of Ugenya and Ugunja have rejected the proposed multi-billion shilling dam project to be funded by the World Bank. The project, which will cover 80 square kilometers if implemented, will displace more than 30,000 people living on the demarcated areas.

The residents said the proposed dam, to be constructed under the Special Programmes ministry, is a plot by powerful people to evict them from their ancestral land.

Through their spokesmen, Aggrey Omondi and Otieno Orodi, the residents said the timing of the project is questionable because the country is headed for the March 4 elections.

"Ugunja constituency was hived out of Ugenya. Displacing more than 30,000 people as we head to the elections will interfere with the threshold that makes a constituency," Omondi said yesterday.

A consultancy firm undertaking the dam project yesterday took the residents through the feasibilty study in a charged meeting at Magoya Shopping Centre.

Joel Otieno, the project's sociologist, refuted claims that the land is being grabbed. Otieno said the project, which started three years ago, is part of the Kenya Vision 2030 and is geared towards regional development.

"We are currently engaging in feasibility studies before the design stage comes in," Otieno said. He said the studies will determine whether the project willgo on.

Otieno told the residents that land valuers will hired to determine the issues of compensation and resettlement. He said other projects are ongoing in Mumias and Trans Nzoia constituencies.

Jared Buoga, one of the residents, said the proposed area is fertile land where the regions food is produced from. Buoga said converting the land into a dam will bring hunger to the region.

"If the project is meant to benefit the locals, why are we being resettled elsewhere?" Buoga asked. The residents asked Lands Minister James Orengo, who is the Ugenya MP, to intervene so that they do not lose their land to "selfish individuals under the guise of devolving development to the people".

Area assistant chief Mark Otieno, who organised the meeting, asked the residents not to reject projects that will uplift their living standards.

"We should not make a blunder that will haunt us in future," the chief said. The meeting comes a few weeks after Bungoma residents opposed a similar project which they said is suspicious.

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