By Salad Malicha
A huge transport infrastructure project due to link Kenya’s coast, Juba in South Sudan, and Ethiopia by 2030 is raising questions about the potential impact on the livelihoods of pastoralists, and protection and compensation for those adversely affected.
The 500-metre wide LAPSSET corridor is expected eventually to form part of an equatorial land bridge linking eastern and western Africa from Juba via Bangui in the Central African Republic to Douala, Cameroon.
Pundits have been highlighting the challenges ahead that borders on security and livelihood. The real challenge is how to realise LAPSSET’s transformative prospect in terms of regional integration, wealth and opportunities while safeguarding the environment, and the rights and livelihoods of those particularly pastoralists whose lands the project will cross.
Communities through whose land the LAPSSET corridor will pass are worried about potential land grabs and livelihood disruptions. There is no such thing as free land in pastoral nomadic communities. Land is owned communally and this ought to be the route to negotiation over LAPSSET.
While LAPSSET will go through an area that has never been developed before (enabling connectivity to the rest of the world, access to markets for livestock and hopes for investment in minerals exploration), there are concerns about potential adverse effects on pastoral livelihoods with the blocking off of migratory routes. There is a need to address these problems from a host community point of view. The issue of land and its management is central to the LAPSSET project.
A mixed approach was employed with multi-stage, snowball and purposive sampling techniques. Life experiences and issues of concern raised by the pastoralist communities has never been put into considerations. The pastoralist communities living along the Project corridor have not been sensitized about the projects. They were not informed about the impacts that the project would have on their lives.
In addition, the communities were not adequately involved in various stages of project implementation. Although information dissemination forums were organised occasionally in Isiolo Town secretly, majority of the residents are still speculating on the main route the corridor will be taking, who among them would be affected and how they would be compensated. There are inherent fears that the mega projects will not enhance any basic social services; instead, these services will be further threatened by land grabbers and strained access to basic services due to the influx of people from neighbouring counties.
Public participation and information dissemination in the project should be heightened to assist in addressing speculation that is straining the peaceful co-existence of people in this region.
The LAPSSET project is expected to open up northern areas, which account for most of Kenyas land mass but remain largely under-developed. Recent discoveries of huge oil and water resources there are expected to boost investment.
The resources intended to support this project are inherent in the area. But this new focus on previously marginalized regions has left residents wary of exploitation. We should plan this properly to avoid a Niger Delta and a Palestine/Israel situation. We cannot afford to be ignored for another 50 years.