The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Kitui Must Benefit From Coal ? Bishop

The Catholic Church and an NGO that champions land rights has said the rights of people living in the mineral rich area of Kitui must be protected.

"The people must have a right in the profits and whatever benefits are accrued from the coal mining," said Kitui Catholic Bishop Antony Muheria. "That is something that must be addressed urgently before the mining starts."

He said candidates seeking elective positions should educate the residents on how to demand and protect their rights from investors who will come to Kitui to mine the mineral.

BIshop Muheria was supported by the Chairman of the Land Development and Governance Institute organisation Ibrahim Mwathane who said unlike in other parts of Africa where minerals have turned into curses, the coal and limestone minerals in Kitui will be a blessing.

"We are pleading with the government to ensure that the the land rights of the individuals and communities affected are recognised and protected in accordance with new constitution and land laws," said Mwathane.

He said landowners in areas where their land will be acquired for the mining, must be compensated. The two were speaking at a Kitui town hotel during a workshop to discuss the land issue. The "Arthi na Amani Kenya" seminar was sponsored by the Land Development and Governance Institute.

Bishop Muheria and Mwathane aid it was also important to protect the environment as the mining companies plan their excavations sites.

The Bishop urged the people to preach peace as the country gears up for the March 4 elections. "Let us be strong advocates of peace. I ask the people to vote cheerfully and peacefully," said the bishop.

He asked Kenyans to ignore inciters and hate mongers and "vote for leaders with a conscious." Bishop Muheria said no Kenyan will lose his or her land irrespective of whatever coalition forms the government. He unveiled the NGO's van that will tour and drum up the peace message in Kitui county.

The executive director of the Land Development and Governance Institute Mwenda Makathimo said it is unfair for the Inspector General to gag debate on land. Makathimo warned politicians to debate the emotive issue within the confines of the law and not stir violence.

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