The corporate world is all about profit, making the maximum cash with as little expenditure as acceptable. They hoodwink those in their way with palatable terms such as creation of jobs, developing the area, boosting the local economy etc . Even then they only concern themselves with those that matter, the politicians and the voices in the system.
For the unfortunate poor who occupy the lands where the corporate want to make their cash the script is always different and bloodier. The poor are always wished away, slapped, subjugated, trampled on, and arrogantly pushed aside. If they put up a brave face, then the corporate divides and leads them to a hole of self destruction thanks to carrots they dangle in front of the few in their pockets.
Our case is no different. We live in a desert detached from the rest of the world just as our ancestors have since time immemorial. We are descendants of people who know nothing but herding Camels in the vast Chalbi desert. We have no complicated system regarding our land, our animals or our God.
The thought that one day a multi-billion corporate entity, The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, will walk into our home and force us to fight for one of the three components that make us who we are, the Camels, the Land and our God, is not only beyond our grasp but is probably causing our forefathers to turn in their graves. The LTWP are presently excavating some of those ancestors out of their final resting places as it sinks its giant turbines. So they are not only invading their eternal homes but also violating the rights of their descendants. May they haunt you to your fat bank accounts!
As is the norm in most parts of the third world the multibillion firms almost always have their way in such cases. They systematically take the less laborious, more profitable path to realize their dream projects while knowingly infringing on the rights of the local people.
The LTWP is not an exception if not more blunt and ruthless because they probably never saw the indigenous people as humans worth consulting. In fact, they have previously stated that they saw no people who lived on that land. Period.
The Rendilles have over centuries chased after the erratically elusive Chalbi desert rains from “Haldayan” ( The Marsabit mountains) to “Bey” (The Lake Turkana) and from Korrolle Springs to “Meidah” (Merille). Historically, as is evident in their stories and names of places in use to date, they have grazed far and beyond those boundaries at times. But primarily they have kept to this boundaries and later settled right at the centre as conditions could no longer allow for wholesome constant movement. Over years they have developed specific attachments to, specific ritual functions for and have buried their ancestors in those lands. They have also named their children after those places, as is the practice, to indicate that they were there at that moment. If above is not clear indications, evidence and signature that the land is communally theirs then what is? The Samburu, the Turkana and the El-molo have also lived and migrated in and around the same land hence the communal claim to it.
All of the indigenous communities have the say and access to the land but the LTWP apparently does not recognize either of them as indigenous enough to the land to claim its ownership. To them it is just a vast open, barren land up for grabs. That is probably the reason why they got some city professor to write a report on the typical benefits of the project, went ahead to hold isolated barazas to sell those points to few locals, inappropriately bought the land from local county council without involving the people and arrogantly went ahead with their project while intentionally drowning the cries of the local people in the noise of their heavy expensive machinery. In a nutshell, they twisted every bit of the law to their advantage at the expense of mostly illiterate people and leaders of the time. It did not help some of the leaders were complacent as they are to date since they are in the political leadership purely for self interest.
It is evidently clear to any unbiased mind that LTWP never followed due diligence to acquire the land and have disregarded the rights of the local communities whom they have continuously refused to recognize as indigenous. Obviously it is not the duty of a foreign corporate to decide who indigenous people are. There are legitimate international bodies who dispense that duty just fine.
What is of interest is how the LTWP is doing on benefits of its mega project to the aggrieved people and the area in general as was purported when they lied and cheated their way through the system? The first I heard about LTWP it was from a friend who was all positive about the jobs, the electricity, the better roads and new developments that the multibillion project will bring. That was way before the land nightmare was exposed.
So I wondered what has happened since Serima scarring began? To start off, hundreds of people have flocked to the Serima with hopes of finding jobs only to end up fenced away in a village by the LTWP to wallow in despair resorting to prostitution and all forms of unspeakable ways to stay alive. Now, we are scared of what HIV and other STDs will do to our neglected people who have little or no access to hospitals and medicine. Thank you LTWP, we’ll remember you for every grave we dig to bury our own!
The brothel, read LTWP fenced village, is an eyesore of broken glass, plastic bottles and polythene bags. At a corner is another eyesore, an incomplete borehole the LTWP never saw necessary to finish. So while locals and the hundreds of jobless youths in the fenced village stay thirsty the LTWP camp is complete with a swimming pool. If I had a brush and knew how to paint injustice ,it could not take any better form than this.
In the report of the hired city professor on the area there was hyped-up talk about all the developments electricity will bring once connected. But, the power will be connected straight to the national grid and sold to KPLC. So the communities will just have to wait on KPLC to crawl up the north and connect the power. It has been 50 years, KPLC connecting southern Marsabit will not happen in a million years unless there was a bargained plan by people and LTWP of which there is none. So it was another lie-ridden tale to sell the project to those that mattered.
Frankly, the LTWP started off by robbing us of our land without due diligence and will rub salt into our wounds by leaving us in social, moral and economic despair. Just like the preceding multi-billion shilling project that excavated our communal land, we’ll soon be left with another health disaster to nurse. First cancer and now a possinle increase in HIV-AIDS cases. Then there’ll be the giant constantly turning scarecrows on our land that will give us a headache whenever we pass by with our livestock.
No matter how we view it today, when the project is complete, and the multibillion firm has moved on to another land to conquer while enjoying the profits of the turbines the people will sit their heads in their hands scared of looking each other in the eye. Hopefully, the land case in court remedies the injustice if only to give the people a positive to smile about.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Marsabit Time’s editorial policy.