Kenya’s Vision 2030 and all its flagship projects are envisaged to spur rapid economic growth and steer the country into a middle income economy by the year 2030. The LAPSSET Corridor Projects (LCPs) which includes a port in Lamu, resort cities, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and upgrading of the Isiolo Airport to international standards among others, is part of the programme. This paper sought to examine the effects of project on economic and socio-cultural rights of the communities living along the corridor in Isiolo County.
A mixed approach was employed with multi-stage, snowball and purposive sampling techniques to generate both quantitative and qualitative data. Life experiences and issues of concern raised by the concerned respondents were raised by communities’ expressions. The communities along the North Eastern Transport Improvement Projects had not been sensitized about the projects. They were not informed about the impacts that the project would have on their lives.
In addition, they were not adequately involved in various stages of project implementation. Although information dissemination forums were organized occasionally in Isiolo Town, 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. This paper established that the mega projects had not enhanced any basic social services; instead, these services are further threatened through effects like noise pollution and strained access to basic services due to the influx of people.
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. There has been no public sensitization and engagement, which explains why most members of the community are still not aware about the projects. In fact, some people learned about it through newspapers. To date, some leaders do not know the exact layout of the project in our county. They are only hearing rumours about this project
Critiques however sees non-tariff barriers and lack of political will as major impediments that could slow down the pace of project implementation, besides tedious Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements to secure funding for the projects.
Isiolo County is largely an arid and semi-arid region where the main economic activity is pastoralism. Other activities undertaken on a smaller scale include farming, fishing and hunting. This county is considered among the poorest in Kenya and is characterized by inadequate access to basic services such as water, food and social security. It is known to have experienced historical injustices by successive governments since independence. This is attributed to the colonial government policies that marginalized the Northern corridor that was perpetuated by the successive post-colonial governments. Evidence has further shown that there has been no genuine public sensitization, involvement and participation which has not only discriminated the local communities from taking part in the projects from an informed point of view, but also excluded them from their national duty and responsibility to make informed decisions on any development activity that affects their destiny.
The preamble of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 acknowledges that “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya”, inferring that the people of Isiolo are supreme, and deserve their rights, including the right to inclusion and information. The Constitution ascertains that, the state shall provide economic and social rights and avail appropriate social security to persons who are unable to support themselves and their dependents. The Land Act, 2012 states that communities have a right to own and have land registered in their name. The Lands Acquisition Act, 2013 clearly highlights the procedure of land acquisition for development investment. The procedure and management of land issues are further discussed in the Land Laws Amendment Act of 2016.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”. The law in this case articulately states that in no case shall people be deprived of their property. In case of spoliation, the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful recovery of their property as well as to an adequate compensation in case any of the steps articulated in the procedure were violated.
Core stakeholders such as county government, civil society groups and local community should embark on the following; that the county government should demand for social service provision (water, health care facilities, education institutions, employment for the locals and fair compensation alongside projects to ensure that the people of Isiolo are not de-marginalized by such mega investment projects. They should also consult the public and create awareness before they make key decisions that affect the people’s destiny like re-routing of the LAPSSET Corridor so that the public may give their opinion. On the other hand, civil society agencies, including religious movements, should be the true representatives and eye-openers of the marginalized voiceless members of the public whilst the local communities have a right to know where the corridor projects pass, who will be affected and how they would be compensated in good time to avoid situations where they would be forcefully evicted without prior arrangements on where to go.