Kenya: Fishermen Threaten to Disrupt Lamu Port Opening Over Sh1.7 Billion Compensation

Fishermen affected by the dredging activities at the new Lamu Port have threatened to disrupt the commissioning of the port slated for May 30 this year.

The fishermen accused the government of failing to pay them Sh1.76 billion in compensation.

Led by their Beach Management Units (BMU) representatives, the fishermen issued a 14-day ultimatum for the government to resolve the matter lest they hold protests.

BMU networks chairman Mohamed Somo alleged the project has been marred by many injustices, particularly failure to compensate the local fishermen.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to commission the port on May 30.

Compensation package

"We hereby put it on record that we will oppose the plan by the state to open the Lamu Port until the court order to have the Lamu fishermen affected by Lapsset compensated is effected. As Lamu fishermen and BMUs, we strongly urge the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to ensure the Sh1.76 billion compensation owed is fully distributed to us before the Lamu Port is launched," said Mr Somo.

In May 2018, the Malindi High Court awarded the compensation package of Sh1.76 billion to the Lamu fishermen after they were displaced by the new port at Kililana.

The 4,734 fishermen had sought legal redress, arguing that they would no longer be able to carry on with their venture due to the dredging activities at the new port.

"Over three years down the line, we are still waiting while port construction and dredging of the sea continue. Lamu Port has disrupted our ability to fish and earn our livelihoods. We deserve urgent compensation," said Mr Somo.

In the past week, there have been meetings between the fishermen representatives, KPA and the county government of Lamu where genuine fishermen have been screened and a list submitted to the national government as requested.

The original list, with 4,734 fishermen, was determined in the 2018 Malindi High Court ruling.

However, the current number of fishermen in Lamu is close to 6,000.

Livelihoods

"It is our understanding that 80 percent of the Sh1.76 billion compensation specified will be distributed to fishermen as direct cash payments, which is more transparent, faster and more useful. The remaining 20 percent will go to the development of fishing infrastructure. As BMUs, we are pushing to have even those fishermen not directly receiving cash compensation receive support for their livelihoods," said Mr Somo.

Save Lamu Organisation chairman Mohamed Athman, who was among the key petitioners to have the rights of the local community respected as the government implements the Lamu Port, insisted that every fisherman affected by Lamu Port deserves compensation.

"We demand that the fishing community be compensated before the official opening of the Lamu Port this month. We also want inclusivity in every process for the compensation to reach the right people whose fishing activities have been greatly affected," said Mr Athman.

Their sentiments come just a day after the National Treasury and Planning CS Ukur Yatani visited the Lamu Port and announced that it will be opened on May 30 with the first ship expected to dock at the first Lamu Port berth in Kililana on May 20th this year.

Mr Yatani also assured the fishermen that they would be paid before the port is operationalised.

"All agreements on the compensation of fishermen affected by the Lamu Port's development have been finalised. Money has already been released from the Treasury and we expect the fishermen to be paid in a few days before the port launching date," said Mr Yatani.

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