Led by the Save Lamu community group, today over 200 community members held a public vigil and demonstration citing the lack of information, consultation, and mitigation with the implementation of the proposed Lamu port. Save Lamu is a growing coalition with over 30 groups and aimed to engage communities and stakeholders to ensure participatory decision-making so as to achieve sustainable and responsible development. The groups were supported by Muslim for Human Rights (MUHURI).
Despite being denied the right to assemble and picket, the community groups held a two hour prayer meeting, followed by a demonstration through the town of Lamu where they sang the Kenya national anthem and chanted “Haki Yetu”. The groups proceeded to the sea front where they cut down the banner welcoming guests to the launching project.
The concerns cited by the group were the lack of an environmental impact assessment and mitigation plan, lack of community participation and consultation, lack of access to information, threats to traditional nature-based livelihoods, and the failure to recognize local individual, community and public ownership of land.
“We are not asking for a favour, we are demanding our rights”, said Hussein Khalid, Executive Director of MUHURI.
The group were concerned that the communities will lose their livelihoods after the government has failed to carry-out an Environmental Impact Assessment and Mitigation plan. On the same day as the demonstration, the County Council Planning Committee refused to approve the port project citing lack of information. The Councillors refused to approve the request of 10,000 acres to build the planned Mpeketoni International Airport.
The group coincided the demonstration with the Launching of the port that was planned for March 2, 2012 after their frequent communications to the president has been ignored. President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga are holding a ceremonial ground-breaking event to be witnessed by the President of Ethiopia and South Sudan as well as countless dignitaries arriving for the occasion. Save Lamu has also publicized an online petition submitted to the other partner states of Ethiopia and South Sudan, as well as financiers of the project at www.savelamu.org.
By holding the demonstration, the group challenged the OCS, Francis Tumbo, after they were denied the right to hold the rally three days ago. The Chairman of Save Lamu, Abubakar El-Amudy, was called in to the police station for interrogation and warned against holding the demonstrations. Accompanied by two police officers, the OCS attempted to break the rally but were jeered off-stage. Immediately after the demonstration, organisers cited suspicious phone calls from unknown numbers asking them unusual questions.
Following the threats and intimidation, the group has opted to boycott the launch. Additionally, religious leaders have warned local community members against attending the launch since it coincides with the compulsory Friday Prayers. Some of the community members suspect intentional sabotage to prevent mass action by the government planning to hold the event on the Holy Friday. In response, the groups are planning a mass demonstration on Saturday in Lamu Town to protest their boycott of the project.
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