Back in 2016, Isiolo governor Godana Doyo wanted the LAPSSET corridor that traverses the county to be rerouted to a new route. The idea to reroute was to avoid conflict-prone areas along Meru-Isiolo border. The corridor was originally designed to pass through Garba Tula-Kulamawe-Ngaremara towards Lokichar and Marsabit. The new route according to Godana is to pass through Garba Tula, Boji and directly link to Lodwar through Merti then to Ethiopia.
It is barely a year since Isiolo residents held mass protests demonstrating over forceful encroachment of their land by the neighboring Meru county residents. They lamented that their land issues were never addressed hence denying the people their rights to land ownership.
Things are not settled to date. Currently, residents have not been able to clinch land documents whether individual or community land. Their lands are at high risk of being grabbed by fraudsters with allotment letters. The song is still the same; their voices have not been heard. If anything, more land is being lost to the few rich individuals who are in a position to acquire land documents through the back door.
As if their land grievances are not enough, LAPSSET has become another giant in the room. Apart from the road, railway and oil pipelines to be constructed, Isiolo has to offer space for a resort city and a dam which are to be built as part of the corridor project. The Resort City in Isiolo is set for construction at Kipsing Gap in Oldonyiro ward, with the dam – Crocodile jaw being built to supply water to the resort city. This dam is to be constructed on Ewaso Nyiro River on the border between Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo County. Construction of the dam is however strongly opposed by the community (Isiolo) especially those living in the downstream and depend entirely on the river for socio-economic activities such as water for their cattle.
Crocodile jaw and the resort city aside; the road, railway and oil pipeline to pass through the county would cut a width of approximately 750M according to the information on the ground. Isiolo International Airport and Isiolo–Moyale highway (526km) have already been constructed. What land will be left after all the remaining project plans are put in place? Where will the residents move to? As they depend on cattle, where will they feed their cattle keeping in mind water and pasture have been a challenge?
“We are like baboons living on a tree that is bound to be cut down; we have nowhere else to go if we get displaced.” a resident in Kiwanjani grieved.
In Shambani village alone, about 700 to 1000 households will be affected. If the initial LAPSSET route is retained, 800 households would be displaced in Ola Nagele, a village in Wabera ward. In Kambi Garba, residents say the LAPSSET issue is causing pressure and unsettlement in their minds. To them it is a threat. In Kiwanjani the residents even have more worries as they are not sure whether they are in Isiolo or Meru county. To them they are assured compensation would be impossible due to the existing land woes making them the ultimate losers.
It goes without a saying that these people are marginalized, and have not a say in their own situation. They need help. They need to be heard. Their land crises have to reach an end. They have been in this situation for decades, and with the LAPSSET project their situation moves from bad to worse. Who will intervene to avail a solution to all their nightmares? They say there elected leaders have not been of importance to them as they make decisions without involving them. An ultimatum has to be reached for they can no longer go on in this state.
Residents are opposed to the LAPSSET project saying they have not been involved and that they would lose their lands and are not sure of compensation. They accuse their civic leaders and the government of denying them information, defying the constitution on article 35. They say there has been no public participation to engage them to make free, prior and informed decisions which contravenes articles 174 of the constitution.
The above puts Isiolo residents in a state of vulnerability. They don’t know what next, they have not received any help from their leaders, whom they queued for hours to elect. They still have land conflicts with their neighbors the Meru, who they accuse of encroaching their land. Their voice needs to be heard, it is their right to live right just as any other Kenyan citizen of this country.
Both the county and national government should have an urgent need to sit and listen from these people, after all the constitution identifies Kenyan citizens as sovereign. Our elected leaders wouldn’t acquire the ‘powers’ they have if it wasn’t through the votes by these same people. If the people oppose the project, let an alternative route as suggested by Godana be considered. Why should the route pass directly in the midst of people’s homes and settlement, if it can pass through another route with less costs of damage? The voice of the residents in Isiolo must be heard.