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Land owners displaced by Sh5b road project yet to get payout

HOME & AWAY
By Stephen Rutto | December 22nd 2020
A section of Kapseret residents, Uasin Gishu County, on December 15, 2020, who surrendered land for the construction of the Eldoret bypass. They yesterday protested over discrimination in payment of compensation money for the infrastructure project. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Some residents have not received compensation for land they surrendered three years ago for construction of Sh5 billion Eldoret southern bypass.

Led by Kenya's former ambassador to Democratic Republic of Congo Jacob Chumba, the residents are now threatening to move to court to halt construction of the project listed as one of Jubilee administration’s signature projects in the North Rift region.

They claim some landowners received their awards more than a year ago in what they termed as a questionable compensation process.

Last Thursday, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya toured the project in the company of a team from the President’s Delivery Unit but avoided the thorny compensation issue.

Chumba said for the last two years, the government has been promising to pay them, terming the delay as unfair to residents who surrendered land for the infrastructure expected to ease traffic jams in Eldoret town.

The former ambassador claimed he is yet to receive Sh2.6 million for 0.3-acre land he surrendered for the bypass.

However, the government says the residents complaining about compensation have no clear ownership documents of the land they surrendered.

“Most of us are relying on the compensation to purchase alternative land. We need an urgent intervention by the State because farmers can’t grow crops on the land they have already surrendered,” said Chumba, a resident of Kapseret.

He said landowners had agreed on the amount of compensation after signing agreements over two years ago, which the government had promised to released immediately.

“The bypass is good for our economy. We don’t want to feel discriminated against in a compensation process after surrendering land for a noble government project. As it is, some landowners affected by construction of the bypass are feeling that they are less special than others,” he said.

The Cheplasgei-Kapseret-Maili Tisa bypass that cuts across the farms estates is on process, however the residents say the Sh 1.6 billion meant for their compensation has delayed the completion of the process. [Peter Ochieng, Standard] 

The retired diplomat called for an urgent probe into the compensation process.

Samuel Sang, another resident, said he is yet to be paid Sh1.1 million for a quarter of an acre he surrendered for the project.

“I have not been paid a single shilling yet my neighbour who also surrendered land has received his full compensation. I am yet to understand the procedure used to pay landowners,” Sang said.

He appealed to the National Land Commission to move swiftly to pay landowners their dues.

Another resident Edwin Rotich, who claims he is yet to receive Sh5.4 million for a half an acre he surrendered for the project, said some landowners who went to Nairobi to complain about the delay were recently paid.

“Should all of us travel to Nairobi to get our rightful compensation? I recently asked local authorities why I am not getting my compensation and I was told that I was required to produce some documents, which I had presented three years ago,” Rotich said.

According to timelines provided by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), the multi-billion shilling bypass is supposed to be completed by August 2021.

Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Stephen Kihara yesterday attributed the delay in compensation to land succession woes.

“Treasury released the compensation money to KeNHA and the authority sent the money to the National Land Commission which is mandated with scrutinising the authenticity of land documents,” he said.

A report by the government indicates Sh1.4 billion was paid out in 2019, with residents demanding over Sh1.6 billion in unpaid compensation.

Kihara further said compensation process was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which restricted one-on-one meetings.

During his Thursday visit, Natembeya warned the contractor against doing shoddy works and delaying completion of the bypass.

“We cannot entertain contractors carrying out shoddy works. You can’t claim that you do not have funds to complete the project yet, while you were being awarded you convinced the tender committee that you had the technical and financial capacity to do the works,” Natembeya said.

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