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Kitui residents and leaders threaten to disrupt coal mining

Source: Kenya News Agency

Extraction of coal deposits worth billions of shillings in Kitui County may face delays with local residents and leaders demanding more consultations to iron out sticking issues.
Both leaders and residents are in agreement that the process is being rushed and may end up disadvantaging them and are demanding that the government be transparent and accommodative to their wishes.
Speaking during a visit to the coal rich Mui Basin by Senate committee on Energy led by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi on Wednesday, local legislators led by Kitui Central and Kitui East MPs Makali Mulu and Marcus Mutua Muluvi respectively said the mining process ought to be stopped until proper and inclusive consultation involving all stakeholders are held.
Land compensation and establishment of a power plant at Mui coals basin were some of the emotive issues the leaders said were going to make them derail the exercise.
“We are not going to sit and watch minerals from Kitui being transported to the proposed Lamu power and deny our people employment opportunities,” said Muluvi.
The two leaders either challenged the Ministry of Lands and the National Land Commission to work out a clear and acceptable compensation package to residents who will move to pave way for the extraction to start.
Kitui Senator David Musila told the committee to compel the Ministry of Energy to undertake a comprehensive civic education saying most of the residents were either ignorant or have been deliberately kept out of the entire mining process.
“People in these areas have little knowledge on what’s going on about the process. Some have even been misled that they will be evicted without compensation,” said Musila.
He challenged the Ministry of Energy officials to team up with the locals whenever they are in the area as they were endangering themselves as locals had stated having a feeling that they were enemies because of the lies they had been fed with.
“Don’t you expect to meet hostility if you invade someone’s home? Like today most people didn’t know about this visit we woke up to find tents pitched here. Please work with locals for this exercise to materialize,” said Mwingi Central legislator Joe Mutambu.
Mutambu either had a different opinion on what had bogged down mineral extraction. According to him the Chinese company, FENXI mining awarded the contract to mine had no financial muscle to carry out the task.
Kitui governor Dr Julius Malombe said that establishing the coal power plant at Lamu would deny local people their rightful opportunities.
“If we let this plant go to, Lamu we will not enjoy some of the corporate social responsibilities that should come along with this industry,’’ said Malombe.
The Law Society of Kenya chairman Eric Mutua who is the chair of the Mui coal basin liaison committee also opposed the establishment of the coal powered plant in Lamu.
Mutua who is also a land owner in the area added that they would not let their land go cheaply.
In response the committee chair Gideon Moi reassured the locals that all their wishes and needs would be settled before the extraction starts.
“I would like to assure you that this committee and our counterparts in the national assembly will not let the people of Mui down,’’ pledged Moi.
Senator Moi was accompanied by ODM nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro and Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi.