LAPSSET and Indigenous Peoples in Kenya

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LAPSSET and Indigenous Peoples in Kenya

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 Turkana will add to the suffering of the Turkana 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 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. 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.

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 government efforts may also be too little too late especially since the communities are not organized enough to immediately start addressing the challenges they face. This necessitates the urgent need 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 and livelihood improvement opportunities supported and up scaled to build and strengthen Indigenous Peoples ability to respond to challenges. Issues of recurrent, intensifying conflicts must also be urgently addressed. This cannot be achieved with genuine consultation and participation of Indigenous Peoples through structures that are truly representative of their needs and aspirations. Targeted international support will be critical to compliment the efforts by Indigenous Peoples and the government.

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