19 March 2019

Kenya: Roba Says Greedy Businessmen Killed Mandera Airports Dream

Mandera Governor Ali Roba has broken his long silence on the controversy surrounding failed airport construction projects in the county.

The governor has pointed an accusing finger at local businessmen whom he described as greedy and selfish. He also blamed clan based politics for turbulences he has faced since 2013.

"We have had an interest to build a standard airport in Mandera to serve and save locals from an impending emergency at the current airstrip we are using but some individuals have selfishly frustrated this," he said.


According to the governor, some powerful individuals have incited locals against his ambition and exaggerated the size of the land needed for the project whose cost is a well-guarded secret.

Deputy Governor Mohamed Arai said he could remember the budgeted figure for the Karo airstrip.

"They are talking of a huge chunk of land when we only need a piece two kilometres wide and six kilometres long but nothing more," Governor Roba claimed.


Mr Roba's proposal to have the airstrip build at Karo in Mandera East was dragged to the High Court in Nairobi on Wednesday with a local community claiming it is a possible cause of clan clashes.

They claimed that the area was a water catchment zone used by their livestock.

Through Mr Mohamed Edow, their lawyer, the locals claimed the county and the Kenya Airports Authority did not consult them on the project.

They claimed the project was going to affect livelihoods of at least 140,000 locals living in Karo.

Justice Weldon Korir directed that the matter be heard and determined at the Garissa High Court and not at Milimani.


The locals said they have more pressing needs like water and healthcare as opposed to building an airport.

In a statement at the Mandera County Assembly, Libehia MCA Farah Abdinoor sought to know the budgetary allocation for the project.

He also sought to know who exactly is funding the project and whether there has been any public participation forums on the matter.

Mr Roba maintained that Mandera needs an airstrip, adding that judging from his experience as a pilot, air safety at the current airstrip is not guaranteed.

The current airstrip is located in a military camp in Mandera town.

"The types of aircraft that operate at Mandera airstrip are not certified to operate from short gravel runway and the risk is high," he said.

He said as a leader he will not sit back and watch as his electorates perish in a situation that can be avoided.


Mandera conceived the idea of having an international airport in 2013 but the project has suffered unending opposition at almost every proposed site.

Initially the project was launched at Libehia in Mandera East but flopped under unclear circumstances with at least Sh300 million having been used for a feasibility study.

It was then moved to Wargadud in Mandera South and againg, infightings among locals scuttled the plan.

Mr Roba sought to clarify that the initial project which was rejected at Libehia and then moved Wargadud was by national government and not by his administration.

"I want it known that the initial project was by national government and after the community in Wagadud agreeing to host it, some greedy businessmen stalled it," he said.


He admitted that it is only in Libehia that the project was rejected by the local Murule community who claimed the Garre clan planned to grab their grazing land.

He called on local communities to shun falsehood and support development in Mandera.

The airport project is not only suffering opposition in Mandera East alone but also in Mandera West, the community has rejected a similar project.

The Mandera west project sparked a conflict between Mandera Assembly speaker Mohamed Khalif and county secretary Mr Abdinoor Maalim.

Mr Maalim accused the assembly Speaker of inciting locals in Mandera West against the project an allegation Mr Khalif denied.

Governor has only been successful in working on an airstrip in Mandera South (Elwak), his backyard, since 2013.


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