In September and October 2023, KI carried out training on business and human rights targeting communities, the business community, representatives from the regional office of the LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority and the County Government of Isiolo. The engagements were a follow-up to interventions by KI and other partners on the need to address human rights violations resulting from the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project. Specifically, the training sought to build communities’ understanding of their environmental and human rights and how to actualise those rights in business and development. It also addressed the obligations of Isiolo County officials and the business community to uphold those rights through a better understanding of rights-based development. Additionally, the training focused on citizens’ rights to and duties of government agencies to enable access to information in the context of development projects.
The training took a tripartite approach, with separate engagements for communities, businesses and county government officials. These culminated in a joint meeting that brought together these groups to identify joint commitments for addressing human rights violations resulting from the implementation of the LAPSSET project. The training recognised the intersection between development and human rights.
KI carried out two sessions, targeting community members in Kina, Garbatulla Subcounty and others drawn from wards around Isiolo town, notably Wabera, Bulla Pesa, Ngare Mara, Burat, Oldo Nyiro and Sericho. Our interaction, particularly in Garbatulla, revealed the glaring lack of understanding of fundamental human rights, particularly in the context of the LAPSSET project and failure by the government to engage communities to enable them to participate in processes affecting them.
As one member of the community noted, ‘the training sessions have given us a voice and the tools to demand transparency and access to information. We now understand our rights better, and this knowledge empowers us to actively participate in decisions that affect our lives and the future of our community. The impact is visible, and we are grateful for their dedication.
The sessions also provided an opportunity for the regional representative of the LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority to sensitise the community on the project and address their concerns. Among the prevailing concerns from the community were displacement from their lands, low valuation of their land and resources, failure to compensate those displaced, and lack of information from the government on these issues. They were also apprehensive about losing their community land owing to a lack of clarity and progress on land adjudication in Isiolo. Communities also sought measures to address the negative impacts on their livelihood, particularly the nomadic populations, as well as mitigation of damage to the environment because of the construction projects. Participants were also taken through a session on how to use access to information requests to the government to address the concerns raised.
Joint engagement with communities, businesses and government officials
In a subsequent session, Katiba Institute facilitated a meeting that brought together representatives on of communities from Isiolo North and South, the business community, LAPSSET authority regional office and Isiolo county government. The meeting was officially opened by Mr. Mohamed Boru, the Deputy County Secretary of Isiolo, who expressed appreciation for KI’s intervention and called for the empowerment of communities to prepare them to exploit the benefits of the LAPSSET project.
During the discussions, communities raised their concerns about displacement, fair compensation, environmental degradation, unresolved land disputes, sustainable development practices, lack of information on land ownership and community benefits and lack of meaningful engagement by the government. They also reiterated their concerns about the Legal Notice No. 150. In this, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Ministry Lands and Physical Planning, pursuant to powers given to her by Section 3 (1) of the Land Adjudication Act (Cap 284) gazetted an order affecting certain Community Land in Isiolo County except gazetted areas of Resort City, Isiolo Township, Kenya Defence Forces School of Infantry and Combat Engineering, National Reserves and Isiolo Holding Grounds) previously issued by the national government on land adjudication, which impacted community rights in registering their community land. They also sought clarity on opportunities for communities and avenues for accessing them, the potential impact of the resort city and expansion of Isiolo airport and the status of the compensation process.
The business community cited low community preparedness due to lack of information, support on how to promote local business opportunities, and the project’s impact on current opportunities, particularly tourism and wildlife. They also highlighted the need to protect local business interests and utilise local industries and opportunities in the LAPSSET project and more information on the project’s environmental impact assessment. The county government representatives committed themselves to sensitizing the community on the project and other emerging issues, supporting communities in seeking information on land valuation through experience sharing from other counties and exploiting linkages between national and county governments with partners and communities. They also committed to enabling access to information to the public by improving the county website to be a more reliable source of information.
The session also provided an opportunity to get clarification on specific issues such as the pending issuance of land titles, information on the status of compensation, the process of community land registration and clarification on the planned expansion of the airport. As a result, some of the concerns raised were addressed. In contrast, others will require the intervention of the national government and national government agencies, such as the LAPSSET corridor development authority and the National Land Commission. All the groups resolved to collaborate.