Photojournalist forced to Trek 2hrs on Foot for Taking Pictures of Lamu Port Area

January 24, 2012

Abdalla Bargash

Photographer, Abdalla Bargash

Save Lamu member and supporter, Abdalla Bargash, was harassed and later abandoned to walk back to Lamu on foot by security officers after he attempted to take pictures of the ongoing construction of the Lamu Port road construction area.

Bargash is a freelance photographer with Lamu Studio. He followed a delegation of community members from Kililana Farmers Association who were to have an emergency meeting with the Permanent Secretary for Transport, Dr. Cyrus Njiru following their concerns on the encroachment of the Lamu Port road into their farmland. The delegation also include the Lamu West District Commissioner, Stephen Ikua and the Principal Chief Jamal Fankupi in charge of local internal security.

Despite Dr. Njiru’s hesitation to travel with press, Bargash opted to follow the delegation to ensure the matter is covered since other press were unable to attend the meeting. On site, Bargash was refused to take any pictures and confronted after he attempted to by Mr. Fankupi following the orders of Dr. Njiru. He was asked to handover his camera, but following his insistence that they take his life before his camera, they decided to confiscate his memory card and battery. It is only through his wit that Bargash switched memory cards and managed to retain the pictures to give us the first glimpse of the Lamu Port road construction.

First glimpse of the construction site (Photo credits: Abdalla Bargash)

First glimpse of the construction site (Photo credits: Abdalla Bargash)

Without his camera, Bargash decided to take notes of the meeting but was immediately apprehendend and had his notebook confiscated and was chased off the site. While the security officer handed back his battery, he received a final dose of punishment after the PS refused to travel back with him to Lamu and abandoned him to walk on foot. Bargash had traveled by road together with the delegation but was left alone to trek back for two hours from the construction site to the closest point he could get to get a boat back to Lamu. Fortunately, it was not in vainĀ  as he did not leave empty handed. Below is the only footage of the Lamu Port road that Bargash caught before he was confronted.

Since Bargash could not give a full account of the events after he was forced to leave, Save Lamu was also able to contact some community members present throughout the whole meeting who clarified that there was no discussion on the consultation process for the entire LAPSSET project for other communities but rather on how they planned to compensate the farmers affected. The means, amount and date of compensation was not specified. For now, names of affected farmers will be written down and an agreement will be signed when the PS returns to Lamu on Friday. The PS averted any further questions when he returned to Lamu town after he avoided a group of community members congregated at the DC’s office awaiting answers on the lack of consultation for other affected communities, and environmental impact assessment and mitigation plan for the entire LAPSSET project beyond just the port road and Kililana.