A small but important enclave of Islamic culture in Kenya is threatened by a super port backed by Chinese interests. So are the surrounding coral reef, mangrove forests, and endangered marine turtles and dugongs.
The Kenya government has pursued this multi-billion dollar project under a veil of secrecy, without consulting the local community. Now, with help from a Non Government Organization (NGO) called Natural Justice, the Swahili people, along with the Boni, Sanye, and others, are fighting back.
Representatives from the South African based (NGO) visited Lamu at the end of last year in order to gather information that would help the local community build a case against the unfettered development of Lamu.
Natural Justice takes their name from the legal principle that people should be involved in decisions that affect them, according to their website, relying on international and domestic laws to help otherwise vulnerable communities assert their rights to control their own natural resources.
The Lamu Environment Protection and Conservation Group (LEPAC) have been working with Natural Justice to ensure consideration of the local people whose culture and livelihood depend on a healthy development model.
In a press release, LEPAC announced the following expectations of the Kenyan government:
- Seek dialogue with the community to hear its concerns about the construction of the port and to take these into consideration in its planning;
- Make public an Environmental and Cultural Impact Assessment Report;
- Ensure that the environmental impact of the port is minimal;
- Ensure that the local community benefits from opportunities from the development of the port
- Provide land reforms (as pertains to the new constitution) to be implemented before port plans are inaugurated
LEPAC, Natural Justice, and a host of other organizations are preparing to accumulate data in order to establish a Biocultural Community Protocol (BCP). This is a legal instrument that addresses a shortfall of community involvement in the policies that effect their land and resources.
Laws that protect indigenous people include: the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Labor Organization Declaration 169, and international environmental laws such as the Rio Conventions (CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD).
Natural Justice has successfully assisted other communities throughout Africa and Asia, including the Samburu Pastoralists in Northern Kenya who depend largely on sheep, goats, and cattle that graze on land being unfairly expropriated.
The Lamu people are not necessarily opposed to the port; they simply ask that the government work with them to create solutions that are satisfy local, national, and international interests.
For more information or to support the BCP, please contact Hadija Ernst at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More on Muslims in Lamu:
image via un punto in movimento