Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor and Indigenous Peoples in Kenya
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This report explores the potential impacts of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia transport corridor project (LAPSSET) on Indigenous peoples in Kenya as observed by a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It outlines some of the potential threats that Indigenous Peoples face and provides some recommendations to address these challenges.
Views and opinions expressed in the report are not necessarily those of the author or IWGIA.
Potential negative impacts on indigenous peoples
The project’s potential negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples include loss of land, territories and resources, increased conflicts, alteration of traditional livelihoods systems and the collapse cultures and traditions among others.
The LAPSSET project will impact millions of lives
The LAPSSET Corridor project, a major infrastructure development project that will run from Kenya to South Sudan and Ethiopia, will impact, positively or negatively, on the lives of more than 100 million people in the three countries. Indigenous peoples will potentially suffer the most negative impacts as a result of their having been historically marginalized economically, socially and politically. The recent discovery of oil in Turkana1 will add to the suffering of the Turkana peoples.
More than one group of indigenous peoples
The Indigenous peoples found along the LAPSSET transport corridor include the Awer and Sanye hunter gatherers, the Orma, Wardei, Samburi, Borana and Turkana pastoralist and pastoral-fisher communities that include the Elmolo. These communities are some of the most excluded from the socio-economic and political fabric of Kenya and are least equipped to respond to the new set of challenges that the LAPSSET transport corridor portends.
Civil society express concern
Indigenous Peoples through their civil society organizations and other representative structures have voiced serious concerns regarding the potential negative consequences of the project. Many non-governmental organizations have also consistently voiced similar concerns and some are taking steps to address them.
Government efforts overshadowed by corruption and discrimination
The Government of Kenya has initiated a series of steps to address some of the concerns. These include attempts at addressing land tenure issues, constituting conflict management committees at various levels and committing to training of communities to prepare them to be part of the implementation process. But rampant corruption and policies that disfavor Indigenous Peoples may stand in the way of any efforts to safeguards the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The way forward
Since the indigenous communities are not organized enough to immediately start addressing the challenges they face, one crucial effort should be for Indigenous Peoples to get organized both at the national and local levels.
Civic education to raise awareness and enable Indigenous communities to make informed choices is needed and livelihood improvement opportunities should be supported and up scaled to build and strengthen Indigenous Peoples ability to respond to challenges related to the LAPSSET project.
Issues of recurrent, intensifying conflicts must also be urgently addressed. This cannot be achieved without genuine consultation and participation of Indigenous Peoples through structures that are truly representative of their needs and aspirations.
In addition to all these efforts targeted international support will be critical to compliment the efforts by Indigenous Peoples and the government.