Commentary: Why land related conflicts in areas impacted by infrastructural projects in Kenya should be resolved urgently

Author: Ikal Angelei (Friends of Lake Turkana), in Standard Digital (Kenya), Published on: 29 March 2019

"Why land related issues in Turkana should be dealt with presently"

The uneasy relationship between foreign capital and indigenous lands in Africa has only increased with the emergence of new resource frontiers and grand nationalist visions of infrastructural development in Africa. As multinational corporations push further into Kenya’s vulnerable and indigenous territories in the quest for investment opportunities, narratives of displacement and land dispossession follow in their wake. In 2012, the Kibaki government launched the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopian Transport (LAPSSET) corridor, a Sh2.5 trillion infrastructure project that would comprise highways, oil pipeline, railways, resort cities, a 32- berth port in Lamu, airports and fibre optic cable, connecting Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Granted, infrastructure has been conceived as the enabler for development and the zenith of what it means to be a modern society.

The flip side and often muted aspect of this narrative is that, if not well managed, infrastructural development could be counterproductive and unsustainable. Without adequate controls, what emerges is the privatization of gains and socialization of losses. Along with the LAPSSET, oil and mineral discoveries were announced in Turkana County, with promises of new found “wealth” for the region and the country as a whole. Eight years on, the promised ‘development’ continue to materialize in words with little or no tangible benefits for the larger population...However, the continued lack of real engagement and participation of the owners of the land creates considerable uncertainty regarding the status, extent and security of their territories.With plans to develop the oil in Turkana for the next thirty or so years, it is not wise to start this on the wrong footing. It is critical to have a well -meaning engagement, embracing the constitutional position that resources belong to the people but held in trust by the state.

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