In 1973 about 1400 families living Kerio valley, Elgeyo Marakwet County, Keiyo South, were rendered landless, when the Government set apart 9070 acres of their ancestral land to pave way for Fluorspar Mining, upon which the Government would give them full, just and prompt compensation for their land and other related losses and disturbances.
More than 40 years down the line, the affected community members who have now grown in numbers to about 20, 000 say they have not received compensation yet. In the recent years, the Mining company (Kenya Fluorspar Mining Company) and the community have been engaged in endless disputes over among other issues compensation and relocation of people living in the mining area.
In 2015, the Natural Resources Alliance of Kenya (KeNRA) in partnership with Coast Rights Forum (CRF) and International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA) carried out a participatory action research on the Model Mining Law (MML) that involved mobilizing residents to engage their civic leaders and the Government in demanding their compensation rights. Upon these engagements and multiple complains by residents, the then Cabinet Secretary for Mining, Hon. Najib Balala appointed and inaugurated the Fluorspar Taskforce to investigate the various claims and make recommendations that would bring an end to the conflict between Kenya Fluorspar Company Limited and the local community.
The Taskforce mandate was to conduct a comprehensive review of the license area under which Kenya Fluorspar Company Limited operates, investigate claims by the locals on unfair treatment by the company, investigate circumstances under which alleged funds for compensation were diverted to other uses by past and present administrators and politicians, explore ways of compensating the residents for their deprived land, advice the government on alternative ways of sorting out the injustice and to provide a written report of its findings to the Cabinet Secretary for Mining with a clear matrix on recommended actions and estimated costs.
In 2017, in a meeting held at Sugutek Grounds in Kimwarer, the community members and their civic/ elected leaders gave the Government a 60 day ultimatum to implement the Taskforce Report on Fluorspar Mining. They threatened to walk to State House to protest against lack of compensation and injustices they have suffered over four decades.
Again in 2017, while attending a campaign rally in the area, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised the residents that they would get compensation for their land and related losses. He directed the then Cabinet Secretary for Mining, Hon Dan Kazungu to work on Fluorspar Land Compensation within two weeks. The CS visited the community three weeks later and promised to set up an Interministerial Committee on Fluorspar Land Compensation within two weeks.
In January 2018 a multi-agency team from the ministry of mining, Office of the Attorney General, the National Land Commission (NLC) and the Land Ministry toured the area meeting with the Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner, the Governor, Keiyo South Deputy County Commissioner and the area chiefs as well as the community members and promised to hopefully finish the compensation process by June 2018. The team requested the community to nominate seven community members to join the Interministerial Committee on Fluorspar Land Compensation under the leadership of Mr. Silas Kinoti Mureithi, a Commissioner with the National Land Commission (NLC).
While the community awaits the deliberations and results of the Committee, they have dismissed the 1 billion shillings compensation offer by President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying they want compensation of more than 9 billion, equivalent to 1 million shillings per acre for their 9070 acres.
Led by the Kimarer Sugutek Fluorspar Community Trust, the residents say they want detailed assessment of what each family should receive. Whereas some families are advocating for land for land, others want money as compensation.
According to the Task-force report the local community is demanding compensation for among others; the land leased by the government to KFC, loss of income as a result of the special mining lease, relocation costs, livestock lost, disturbance, destruction of graves and human remains, destruction of beehives and destruction of traditional shrines and ceremonial sites.
With the 21-year special mining lease offered by the government to KFC expiring on 31st March 2018, the residents say it should not be renewed until the Task-force Report is fully implemented. The firm suspended its mining operations in 2016 over low global demand and declining prices for fluorspar products. However the residents admit going through economic difficulties after the closure, they say their issues should be addressed first.
The Elgeyo Marakwet County government while supporting the locals towards compensation says it wants the local people to buy shares in the new management upon renewal of the lease, to be part of the ownership. Rumour has it that the lease will be offered to a new contractor.
The expiry of the lease also opens up an opportunity for the community to enter into a Community Development Agreement (CDA) with the company as per the requirement of the new Mining Act 2016.
The coming into force of the Community Land Act 2012 also offers an opportunity for the community to organize themselves and claim the community land. They will be able to bargain as the custodian of the land under the lease hence reaping more benefits from the extractives activities.
There is a further opportunity for the community to claim the percentage allocated for the community as envisaged in the Natural Resources Benefit sharing bill 2016. If well-structured too, the community can further reap more benefits if they are engaged in negotiating for local content as proposed in the Local Content bill 2016.
In a nutshell, it is the right time for the community to organize themselves, claim the land and engage in a structure dialogue with the other actors in maximizing their beneficiation from the extraction as provided by the various new laws.