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Give Lapsset landlords title deeds, study recommends

People living on the Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor project route risk losing their ancestral land without compensation. A study by Tegemeo Institute, the research arm of Egerton University, indicates that the communities, most of whom are pastoralists, lack titledeeds which is a prerequisite for compensation.

By law therefore, they are not eligible for compensation since the government will only indemnify those with registered land. Speaking at the unveiling of the report at the Kenya School of Governmnet, lead researcher Tim Njagi said the communities best bet is to obtain title deeds before the project is implemented.

“We have a situation where there is nothing in law that compels the government to compensate communities with land under collective ownership, who do not have titles,” he said. The 1,700km project, launched in March 2012 by the governments of Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, with Uganda also recently joining is projected to boost Kenya’s Gross Domestic Project (GDP) by at least three per cent.

The project links the Kenyan Coast, Juba in South Sudan and Ethiopia. Lapsset projects include a port in Lamu, a 1,500km Standard Gauge Railway line from Lamu to Nakodok on the Kenya-South Sudan border, oil pipelines to South Sudan and Ethiopia, an oil refinery; three airports; and three tourist resorts — in the Kenyan towns of Isiolo and Lamu and on the shores of Lake Turkana. But Njagi said the projects, however good to the economy, are not necessarily essential to the needs of pastoral communities who largely depend on land. He says the developments are likely to affect the livelihoods of pastoral communities, worse so since they will not be compensated.

Already in Lamu, some families have been displaced by port construction work and are yet to be compensated. Lapsset will traverse Garissa, Moyale, Lodwar and Isiolo, regions which are characterised by insecurity because of proliferation of small arms.

Communities in these regions own land collectively without titles and are now racing against time to acquire them to be compensated. Njagi said livestock production is a viable economic activity for pastoral households especially because the environment is unsuitable for farming.

To sustain pastoralists’ production systems and have a positive impact on pastoral households’ livelihoods, the study recommends inclusion of customary laws in the legal framework. “This will enable communities to enforce customary laws and put a stop to infringement of their land,” said Njagi.

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