Uncertainty over Sh24bn Kiambu dam as locals head to court in compensation row

Residents of Gatundu North who will be affected by the Karemenu Dam project address journalists together with human rights activist Okiya Omtatah (Right) at Kiriko Catholic Church. [Kamau Maichuhie, Standard]

The construction of the Sh24 billion Karemenu Dam in Gatundu North hangs in the balance after residents and the Government differed over land compensation.

Thousands of residents who will be affected by the construction of the dam have protested against the decision of the National Land Commission (NLC) to review the compensation.

Consequently, they have given the Chinese contractors, who are already on the ground, seven days to move out or be ejected.

In a Kenya Gazette notice dated November 1, NLC Acting Chairperson Abigael Mbagaya announced that the commission had cancelled the initial compensation awards due anomalies. She said there were errors and discrepancies in the computation of the amounts.

Sh800 million

Speaking in Ruiru two weeks ago, Deputy President William Ruto angered the land owners further when he announced they would be paid Sh800 million compensation.

The residents have termed the Sh800 million announced by Mr Ruto too little.

The land owners on Monday met and vowed to block the construction of the dam until they were compensated appropriately.

During the meeting at Kiriko Catholic Church they resolved to go to court to block the launching of the project.

They instructed human rights activist Okiya Omtatah, who was present, to go to court on their behalf.

“To us Sh800 million is nothing but peanuts compared to the cost of the project, which is Sh24 billion. That money cannot be sufficient for the more than 5,000 families that will be affected. We are demanding Sh3 billion as compensation,” said Mathew Mukuha, one of the residents.

Paul Mwangi said the residents were shocked by NLC's turnabout as they had already agreed with the agency on the amount to be paid.

“We sat down with the team from NLC and Athi Water Services Board and agreed on the amount of money to be paid to all those whose land will be taken away. We are surprised to learn that they have now gone against what we agreed,” said Mr Mwangi.

Some residents requested the Government to give them land elsewhere instead of monetary compensation.

Ms Mbagaya told locals to stop complaining as the compensation NLC had set was proportional to the market value of their land.

“The amount that had been awarded has changed as there were discrepancies and errors. We are not disenfranchising anybody and the residents are getting the market value for their property,” she said.

She added that the commission would not buy land for anyone and that the residents were at liberty to look for alternative land at a place of their choice once they got the money.

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MbagayaKiriko Catholic ChurchDeputy President William RutoNLC Acting Chairperson Abigael MbagayaNational Land CommissionKaremenu Dam