UPDATE 20. May 2021:  KENYANS WATCH OUT: Samoa's new leader cancels China-backed port + Kenya launches Lamu port. But its value remains an open question

Uhuru Kenyatta to commission Lamu Port, reneges on promise to compensate local fishermen

China, money and greed is written all over the destruction of the prestine marine environment by this non-viable project - Photo: Said Salim

By SaveLamu - 19. May 2021

Lamu's fishermen are dismayed to learn that President Uhuru Kenyatta will commission Lamu Port on Thursday 20 May 2021.

As government and corporate officials arrive to inaugurate and celebrate Lamu Port, the community of Lamu must conclude that the government and KPA have been acting in bad faith.

Government officials and project developers have made repeated promises to compensate fishermen prior to the port becoming operational, and they are now going against their promises.

To date, Lamu's fishermen have not received any compensation for the losses they have already incurred to their marine resources and livelihoods, even after six years of litigation and three further years of delay.

In a April 2018 ruling, the High Court found rampant environmental violations in the project and awarded Sh1.76 billion to Lamu fishermen affected by the project. The ruling remains frozen without implementation. The appeal has not been heard by the Court of Appeal since 2018.

Despite this ruling, Lamu Port construction continued for four years unabated. Thousands of fishermen have had their livelihoods affected by four years of dredging and land reclamation. Port construction has profoundly damaged the ecosystem, in particular killing corals and diminishing marine nurseries in a richly biodiverse area.

Port operationalisation will only worsen their plight.

Broken promises

Promises of compensation for harms caused by Lamu Port date back to 2014. Lamu’s community is still waiting.

Just last week, National Treasury and Planning Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani stated, "Money has already been released from the Treasury and we expect the fishermen to be paid in a few days before the port launching date, " as reported by Daily Nation and AllAfrica.

Just three weeks ago, The Standard reported, "According to [KPA Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr Benard] Osero, KPA intended to clear up with the compensation of the fishermen who are the port's immediate stakeholders before opening of the new facility."

"DON'T DO HARM!" - Lamu, soon a picture from a glorious past Photo|Khadija Juma

“Already three years have passed since the court awarded us this compensation, which has been owed to us since 2014 when the port project began,” said Somo M. Somo, Chairman of the Lamu County Beach Management Unit.

“Lamu fishermen leadership attended several stakeholder meetings over these years. We made concessions to find an agreeable resolution. Just two weeks ago, we sat in meetings for a week, while observing Ramadan, to reach an agreed upon plan, yet they have decided to launch the Lamu Port despite the promise they made last week about the fishermen compensation matter,” said Mohamed Athman, Save Lamu Chairman.

“In moving forward with this launch, the government and KPA have failed to keep their word. Rather than resolve this vital fishermen’s compensation matter as promised, instead they have decided to celebrate and launch Lamu Port.”

Direct compensation for harm incurred is just one remedy amongst a litany of environmental violations in the planning and construction of Lamu Port, a major component of the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Project.

The port has been constructed by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), associated with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), for USD $500 million.

Regulatory agency National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has failed in its role to monitor compliance and enforce the violations occasioned by the project proponents.

Call to action

We condemn this decision by President Kenyatta and officials to launch Lamu Port while ignoring the project’s serious issues that were affirmed by the High Court in 2018.

We again call on the Kenya Ports Authority and Treasury to swiftly compensate the fishermen -- and to stop shirking their responsibilities and making false promises.

We call on the Court of Appeal to hear and resolve the appeal that was filed by Kenya Ports Authority and fellow respondents in 2018 -- and stop ignoring a pivotal court ruling.

Finally, we call on President Kenyatta to take immediate action to ensure the Lamu fishermen are compensated and resolve the serious and escalating environmental issues with Lamu Port.


For further background information, see previous statements from Save Lamu such as


... we are in all this TOGETHER !

As we all know the Lamu Port is just one part of China's takeover

... while the fossil fluel onslaught is also seen elsewhere in East Africa:

Three quick and easy actions

Tell Total & Standard Bank shareholders to face the people

Next week both Total and Standard Bank are holding their annual shareholder meetings. 

This is our opportunity send their shareholders a message they can’t ignore!

We’ve got three quick and easy actions you can take to show your opposition to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

One: Selfie Wall – Add your face to the #StopEACOP ‘selfie wall’ and we’ll do our best to make sure it’s seen by shareholders ahead of the meetings.

You can do this now – click here!

Two: Calendar Jam – Help us fill the calendars of top finance and investment executives with messages urging shareholders not to vote for Total’s bogus “climate plan.”

You can do this now – Click here!

Three: Twitter Storm – And if you’re on Twitter join us on a posting blitz. Simply post tweets including the #StopEACOP hashtag, tagging @StandardBankZA on the 27th of May, and @Total on the 28th of May.

Here are some suggested Tweets to get you started:

  • .@StandardBankZA financing a new oil pipeline in the midst of a #climateemergency is grossly irresponsible. Don't finance the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. Promote investment in clean energy for East Africa instead! #StopEACOP https://www.stopeacop.net

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Your support is having an impact – it’s helping to generate media coverage and put pressure on the various banks considering whether or not to provide financing. 

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Gravitas: Samoa's new leader cancels China-backed port

•May 20, 2021

Samoa's Prime Minister-designate has promised to cancel a $100 million port project funded by China. She says the island has bigger priorities than a brand new wharf. Samoa joins a growing list of Pacific islands that are standing up to Chinese aggression. WION's Palki Sharma gets you the report.


Kenya launches Lamu port. But its value remains an open question

By &  - 20. May 2021

Kenya’s newest mega infrastructure project, the Lamu port, has received its first ship. Moina Spooner, from The Conversation Africa, asked Jan Bachmann and Benard Musembi – who study the environmental, socio-economic and security dynamics along the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor – to provide insights into the history of the port, the opportunities it presents and the concerns around it.

Container ship docks in the new Lamu Port

The first container ship to dock in the new Lamu Port. Official image from LAPSSET

When and why was the Lamu port project initiated?

The Lamu port is part of an ambitious transport corridor between Lamu – a small archipelago north of Mombasa in Kenya – South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Kenya already has one deep-water port in Mombasa. Plans for a second one to diffuse economic dependency on Mombasa go back to the mid-1970s. However, it only materialised in March 2012. The occasion was marked when the then East African heads of states – Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir – laid the port’s foundation stone.

In its early ambition, the Lamu port figured as connecting the landlocked East African economies to global trade routes. More specifically, it was envisioned as an alternative outlet for South Sudan’s oil, which is currently pumped via the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline to Port Sudan.

With South Sudan mired in continuous war and Ethiopia upping its stakes in the ports of Djibouti and, most recently, Berbera, the international ambitions of the transport corridor shrivelled somewhat.

Yet, as a cornerstone of the Kenyan government’s Vision 2030 development plan, it is now branded as a “game changer” project.

Its new aim is to integrate marginalised northern Kenya into the Kenyan economy and the nation. Plans for the corridor include a pipeline, a railway line, a road network connecting Lamu, Garissa, Isiolo, Moyale and Turkana, a dam along Tana river, airports and resort cities. There are also plans to establish numerous industrial areas along the corridor.

We show in our research that most of the plans are real on paper and government websites only. Nevertheless, the implications for communities across northern Kenya are very concrete. Beside the completion of the 500km Isiolo-Moyale road, the official opening of Lamu port marks the project’s most salient achievement so far.

Constructed by the China Communication Construction Company, the first three of the planned 32 berths come at a cost of US$367 million.

What opportunities does the port present?

Mobilising projections about future trade, the Kenyan government has persistently argued that the Lamu port will become a viable and necessary complement to the hub of Mombasa. Local authorities specifically invest their hopes in plans for a special economic zone, though to date these have rather been illusive. This promises significant investments in the port and the creation of hundreds of jobs.

Since the port will primarily serve as a transshipment hub, it’s expected to attract key shipping lines by competing with the ports of Djibouti on the horn of Africa and Durban in South Africa. In addition it would serve key markets in southern Ethiopia and South Sudan.

So far, around 19 shipping lines have inspected the port. The Kenya Ports Authority anticipates many will use it and take the generous promotional offers currently in place.

On the positive side, road works connecting Lamu to Nairobi via Garissa are well under way. And the new road between Lamu and Garsen has already reduced transport costs as trucks and travellers no longer need to go via Mombasa.

Once the project’s highway towards Garissa and Isiolo is completed, the former northern “frontier” region may benefit from the connection to the port.

But there are big question marks when it comes to the overall economic value of a second Kenyan deep-water port. This concern is driven by the deficient infrastructural integration of Lamu and Northern Kenya.

Logistics experts also warn that Lamu port has formidable potential to become a white elephant project because of the immense uncertainties about its core use.

What have been the big issues around construction?

Planning and construction of the port have yielded a wide range of concerns and contestations, particularly on land rights, the environment, local livelihoods and security.

Different rights groups have documented numerous complaints by residents about compulsory land acquisition. One study found that the government had taken more land than it paid compensation for.

Another major concern touches on the environmental impact of the port’s construction, some of which came to light in a 2018 High Court ruling.

And local protests against the project have been met with harassment by Kenyan security forces.

The economic livelihoods of hundreds of local fishermen will be disrupted by the port because its extensive restricted area restrains access to viable fishing grounds. And in contravention of a court ruling that awarded fishers about KSH1.7 billion (US$ 18.4 million) compensation for their economic losses, the government has delayed the payments over disagreements about the list of beneficiaries and the mode of compensation.

Concerns about employment opportunities to residents are also growing. So far, around 100 youths from Lamu have secured employment at the Lamu port.

Lastly, there are security concerns. In the last 15 years or so, Lamu has become a highly volatile region. Attacks by the al-Shabaab militant group have brought violence to the area and turned it into a highly securitised region. Security operations have significantly reduced insecurity incidences. But periodic al-Shabaab attacks have affected construction activities.

How should these concerns be handled?

The concerns from the community are weighty and require serious attention since they affect many aspects of their daily lives.

Our ongoing research shows that many of the concerns could have been averted if due process had been followed from the project’s inception. This includes timely and adequate compensation to everyone affected by the project. It also includes proper and robust environmental and social impact assessments as well as considering qualified residents for employment opportunities. Finally, there’s the issue of addressing the perennial problems of land rights in Lamu.

It’s vital that Lamu residents are treated as direct stakeholders and partners to the project. Their voices, concerns and aspirations should be taken seriously.



 - Senior Lecturer , University of Gothenburg

- Doctoral Student, University of Gothenburg

Disclosure statement

Jan Bachmann receives funding from VR-Swedish Research Council and FORMAS-Swedish Research Council on sustainable development

Benard Musembi Kilaka receives funding from VR- Swedish Research Council.


The Conversation is funded by the National Research Foundation, eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner. more


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