BY ZUBEIR ATHMAN
Lamu residents have criticised the government for failing to implement key infrastructural developments promised during the multi-agency security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in September 2015.
From the operation’s onset, the government had indicated that it will improve infrastructure projects in the region including roads, schools, digging boreholes among other amenities.
Those earmarked to benefit were residents of Kiangwe, Mararani, Mangai, Basuba, Milimani, Kiunga, Bodhai, Ishakani, Pandanguo, Bar’goni and Ras Kamboni areas.
However, the July 15, 2019 improvised explosive device (IED) incident that injured two police officers and the killing of three suspected Al-Shabaab militants caused residents to question why the government is taking long to address the infrastructure issue.
A villager, Abdalla Wakati, questioned why the government was yet to fulfill its promises instead of leaving the locals on their own.
According to him the bushy roads and environments might soon become a perfect hiding ground for Al-Shabaab militants to hide in and launch ambushes on locals and security officials.
“Our roads are bushy at the moment and we feel they’re becoming a perfect hiding ground for terrorists,” he said adding that most of roads are impassable.
The residents want the Hindi-Kiunga, Bar’goni-Bodhai, Kiunga-Ishakani-Ras Kamboni as well as the Witu-Pandanguo roads to be constructed and tarmacked so as to guarantee fast and safe movement both for security personnel and civilians.
“The sandy roads make it easy for these militants to plant IEDs and you won’t even notice because sand never changes appearance even when disturbed,” Mr Saleh Gurji said adding unless the current situation was improved the IED attacks would continue.
MODERN FISHING GEARS
On the other hand, the fishing community on the Lamu-Somalia border is pleading with both the county and national governments to equip them with modern fishing gears.
The fishermen, from Kiunga, Ishakani, Ras Kamboni, Madina, Kiwayu and Mkokonio villages, say they have for decades been employing traditional methods of fishing which hinder them from exploring deep sea resources.
Coast regional coordinator John Elungata, speaking when he toured Lamu in June, said they had lifted the fishing ban after security improved through the deployment of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers and police in the area.
The coordinator challenged the fishermen to venture into the deep waters and help spur growth of the blue economy.
But speaking to journalists the fishermen said it was mission impossible to fish in the open seas using traditional canoes, dhows, fishing lines and rods.
Mr Mohamed Omar, a renowned fisherman in Kiunga, said such outdated fishing equipment cannot allow them to fish in the deeper seas where they believe much of the fish is concentrated.
“We thank the government for lifting the recent ban on fishing near the Lamu-Somalia border, that’s Past Kiunga and Ras Kamboni,” he said adding that what they required most was advanced fishing equipment.
After a series of Al-Shabaab attacks and kidnapping of tourists and fishermen, the government instituted a fishing ban in 2011 until this March (2019) when interior cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i lifted the ban and directed fishermen be registered electronically to allow them venture into the deep seas.
Meanwhile, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Taskforce has assured Kenyans that it will meet the October 23 deadline in delivering its report to President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Talking to journalists in Lamu on July 20, 2019, the taskforce vice-chairman Adams Oloo said they have covered 42 counties and would complete their meetings before the end of next month.
He said the committee members are determined to compile a comprehensive report plus recommendations and submitted it to the two leaders by October.
“Today (July 20), we’re in Lamu while others are in Kwale. By the end of today we will have covered 42 counties,” he said adding that by next month they will have completed the remaining five counties.
He asked politicians to avoid politicising the taskforce saying none of its members has taken position or sides on the raging constitutional debate in the country.
At the same time, the county elders and anti-coal activists have expressed disappointment over remarked attributed to newly posted Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia who branded them as anti-development.
In his first speech at the Lamu port, the commissioner warned those opposed to the Sh200 billion coal fired power plant project claiming they were antidevelopment.
He said the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor and even the coal plant, which is a sub-component of the Lapsset, will proceed as planned by the national government.
“Our commitment is to provide the right environment for socio-economic development of our people but unfortunately, there are people who are out to frustrate such projects for their own interests,” he said.
However, in a quick rejoinder the elders and activists gave the commissioner a seven-day ultimatum to retract his words or face unspecified consequences.
Drawn from Save Lamu, Lamu Marine Forum, deCoalonize, Sauti ya Wanawake wa Lamu and Shungwaya Welfare Association, the locals criticised Mr Macharia for offending the Lamu people.
Said Lamu elder Famau Ahmed: “We’ve never been enemies of development as alleged by the newly posted county commissioner. We’ve been supporting almost all projects such as the Lapsset, the wind power plant, oil and gas exploration, construction of roads among many other projects being undertaken in Lamu. Our only issue is the coal plant project.”
The coal plant project which is under Amu Power, a consortium of Gulf Energy and Centum Investment is set to be established at Kwasasi area in Hindi division, Lamu West.
So far a total of 975 acres of land have already been acquired for the project which is expected to generate 1,050 megawatts of power once complete and functional.