Fishermen receive Sh1.1 billion compensation over Lamu port project

Fishing boats docked along Lamu Island's seafront. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

After 10 years of court battles and rigorous vetting, more than 4,400 fishermen displaced by the Lamu port project began receiving compensation on Thursday.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) said it has wired a total of Sh1.1 billion to fishermen adversely affected by dredging activities at Kilalani to construct three berths of the port.

“In a significant development, over 4,400 fishermen are set to receive compensation, totalling Sh1.1 billion as directed by the court following a rigorous verification process,” said KPA. 

The authority disclosed that the majority of the fishermen and boat owners would each get Sh241,714.32 from the 65 per cent allocated for cash compensation.

The fishermen said the dredging, excavation, and silting at Kilalani decimated fish breeding grounds, coral, and mangrove forest, dealing a blow to their economic activities.

In May 2018, Malindi Law Courts awarded 4,734 fishermen Sh1.76 billion as compensation for the destruction, but in April 2023, the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) stopped it.

This is after Lamu County rejected the list, saying some of the names were not genuine fishermen or boat owners. EACC and KPA verified the list, paving the way for the compensation.

On Thursday, KPA said the validation and verification, including confirmation of ID and bank account details, settled on 4,167 out of the 4,734 fishermen signing compensation agreements.

In a statement, the authority said 567 fishermen were on a disputed list, out of which EACC came up with a list of 429 deemed genuine.

Following the court's direction, a task force comprising various entities convened from March 24 to May 5, 2024, to undertake the verification process.

"The verification exercise was successful. From the undisputed list of 4,167 fishermen, 3,991 have now signed the necessary agreements and are eligible for cash compensation," said KPA.

KPA said that EACC also applied to the court to table evidence that the extra names were of genuine fishermen or boat owners and should be compensated.

The anti-graft agency said there were other genuine cases in the list of the 567 fishermen and boat owners excluded from those to be compensated.

The Court of Appeal thus directed that the parties involved conduct verification of the ineligible and genuine fishermen and boat owners.

KPA said from the disputed list of 567 fishermen, 164 individuals have been verified and deemed qualified for cash compensation, which makes it a total of 4,155 fisher folk.

The task force has since confirmed that there are another 288 fishermen who have been verified and will sign the agreements soon, meaning that the total number of eligible fishermen is 4,443.

The successful conclusion of the verification process marks a significant milestone in ensuring justice for the fishermen.     

The efforts of all parties involved, including the KPA, the office of the Attorney General, Lamu County government, Beach Management Units, Save Lamu, and the EACC have been instrumental in facilitating a transparent and fair process that upholds the rights of the fishermen.

"The compensation will bring relief and closure to the fishermen and their families, allowing them to move forward with renewed hope,'' KPA said.

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