By Prof. Dr. Halimu Shauri
In my article published by The Coast Newspaper on 4th April 2018 as breaking news (www.thecoast.co.ke) on Miguna Miguna Ignominy: Is it ‘Baba’s Opposition Succession Plan? I alluded to the value of history and historicism. Today, I would like to evoke the same discipline of history to explain the unfolding story of the internationalization of marginalization and historical injustices in Kwale County. You may be wondering why Kwale? Yes, because Kwale County has slowly became the home for foreign investment in Kenya. How you may ask? In that we have Base Titanium Mining, Kwale International Sugar Company (KISCOL) and now the new comer Shimoni Integrated Development Project (SIDEP), led by Shelter Solutions Limited. However, focus in this article will be on KISCOL for obvious reasons. You may be wondering what those reasons are.
Indeed, KISCOL (started in 2007) the Kwale County investment social space with a storm, albeit, negatively possibly because of poor strategy or advice. For any investment to be successful, an investor needs the good will of the local community. This is the reason why development approaches have changed from Top-bottom to Bottom up. Even in the Constitution 2010, there is need for public participation in any development in Kenya. Why should the public be involved you may ask? One is the question of ownership of the project, where the locals ensure optimum participation in the success of the project. Second, they offer security of the investment as partners and this is key for harmonious production. Third, corporations have a social responsibility, called in literature Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is an obligation to the corporation to act in good faith to employees, the environment and the local community. Enough of learning here! What is the point, I can sense you are asking?
The point is that KISCOL made a wrong entry into the community. How you may be wondering? Their advisers, did not first brief them on the context of the land they were to invest in. This land was community land held in trust by the then County Council of Kwale that was given to her predecessor the Ramisi Sugar Company in 1927. The later had agreed with the community on which part it will grow its sugarcane, on which part the community will participate in growing sugarcane as out-growers and which part will be for food production to enhance community food security. During the tenure of Ramisi Sugar Company, the locals had food security and low levels of poverty because they used to supply their cane to the company on commercial basis. The local community was generally happy and there were no ugly incidents and confrontations as is the case now with KISCOL. In fact, it is during this time that many young people from Kwale had access to education, good health and general wellbeing. In sum, Ramisi Sugar Company, that’s why I said history is important, was celebrated and protected by the community. Indeed, when the factory closed down, it went down with the hearts and souls of many of the locals. For a long time a big chunk of land remained fallow, especially where the sugarcane was being planted. What happened then you be wondering?
The community because of its resilience and enterprising spirit, pick up the pieces and decided to turn the land into production, but this time not on sugarcane but food crops to further enhance food security. Many of the community members actually invested heavily on this land in cash and food crops. After a few years, the once bushy and abandoned land was reverberating again with Cashewnuts, Mango, Coconut, tree plants and food crops, especially cassava, the staple food of the community. The community rose again from grass to grace. Issues of food security were fixed and income levels and general welfare enhanced. This became a story of a vibrant community in struggle to develop itself. However, this second success story did not leave long before architects of doom decided to rattle it. You may be wondering where am heading to! Yes, the idea of reviving the sugarcane factory was mooted again by the local leadership. Given the benefits accrued from the, inter alia, Ramisi Sugar Company, the locals welcomed and embraced the idea wholeheartedly, knowing that “mambo ni kama yale (things will be like before). Alas! The entry of KISCOL completely changed the architecture and social structure of the community. How did this happen you be wondering?
This started with wrong entry into the community. What do I mean? The community was not involved in the revival process. While this happened it never rose eye brows, why you may ask? Because the community believed that, like the time of Ramisi Sugar Company, there will be land for the factory to grow sugarcane, their former farm areas will not be touched and they will also grow sugarcane and supply to the company and that agricultural areas for food security will also be maintained, just like before. To the surprise of the community, KISCOL took to itself all the land in disregard of previous arrangements of her predecessor’s coexistence with the community, pitying it to a protracted open conflict. How did this happen when Kenya has laws, procedures and leadership to direct the process? Am sure you are wondering! Yes, it is to the surprise of many in the community that due process was not followed. You may ask which process and this is a licensed company?
In any investment, there are procedures to be followed all over the world. In fact, in an investment of KISCOL magnitude, due diligence and care should have led the process given the sensitivity of land issues in Kwale County. Historically, if I have to remind you as I have promised in my opening statement is that Kwale County is one of the hot spots when it comes to issues of marginalization and historical injustices, especially touching on land. Reports after reports, research after research by the government and other stakeholders, including the N’dungu and National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), Land commission, researchers and academia, Civil Society among others cite land as a contentious issue. Historical events that touch on insecurity in the area had the major precursor being land. The 2013 Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC)’s report states that “there is a very close linkage between land injustices and ethnic violence in Kenya”. The Commission further found that “failure of both colonial and post-independence governments to address the problem of landlessness is the reason individuals and communities often resort to self-help measures, including violence.” To refresh your memory, there has been serious insecurity in Kwale due to the Kaya Bombo attacks, Mlungu Nipa 1 & 2, The dreaded irredentist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) has its headquarters and top leadership in Kwale, the Al-shabaab innuendo, all of these have mention of root causes among them marginalization and historical injustices, especially the land question.
Now for close to a decade the local community is locked in court contesting the takeover of their land, which they claim, is community land that was held in trust by the County Council and now the County Government of Kwale. KISCOL evicted them from their land without alternative settlement plan and destroyed their crops without compensation in a manner that demonstrated impunity of an international investor. This angered the community and they pitched camp seeking justice as per the rule of law. What is wrong with this you be wondering? Nothing wrong and the community should be commended in pursuing legal and peaceful solution to their imposed squatter status on their own communal land. However, a major event happened on 15th March 2018 that has raised emotions and anger of the community and I guess the County Government of Kwale based on betrayal, which if not well handled can split hairs among the conflicting parties. What happened you are wondering? On 15th of March 2018, the National Land Commission wrote a letter ref: NLC/CHAIRMAN/Vol.XX1/221 with the subject Constitutional Petition No 65 of 2011 (High Court Mombasa) Kassim Ali Kama & 610 Others Vs Kwale International Sugar Company Limited and others, with strict instructions allowing the company to proceed with its economic activities in disregard of the community demands. Where is the problem you may ask?
The challenge is that the problem, which is the voice of the farmers, has not been listened to! The farmers had raised their complaints of resettlement, compensation, participation in growing sugarcane and supply to the company that have not been listened to by the mediators. Listening to the farmers one gets wise by knowing that the community is not at all opposed to the project but has demands to ensure that the project follows the original plan as envisioned in the best practice of Ramisi Sugar Company or dialogue to establish the sugarcane concession area and what remains for them to grow sugarcane and food for their livelihood, which is in line with the president agenda of the Big Four, Food Security and Agriculture being one of them. How does one achieve food security in the absence of land to do agriculture or farming? This directive contravenes the president’s goal of promoting food security in the country as this community would be landless.
The worst of all is that the land that KISCOL wants to repossess from the community, also houses a new market, a new football pitch and new social hall and other infrastructure built by the County Government of Kwale (CGK) for hundreds of millions of tax payer’s money. The CGK (002) has also been put on notice and served to demolish its aforementioned infrastructure because the land belongs to KISCOL. This is an unfolding story where an international investor displaces the local government from a parcel of land that they themselves (CGK) allocated to the investor. This qualifies to be a case of marginalization of the farmers and their own county government by an international investor. What is critical for the investor is to think about the impacts this will generate as days close to the Saturday the 7th April 2018 as the eviction day. What would you advise out of this impasse, I see you asking?
My unsolicited advice to the investor is that they need to abandon their eviction plan and give dialogue a chance. There are many opportunities that can lead to a win-win situation to the conflict between the now tripartite antagonists. One, can be for KISCOL to follow the original plan of land use as the best practice from its predecessor the Ramisi Sugar Company. Second, KISCOL can dialogue with the farmers and the CGK with a view of reaching an amicable and acceptable solution for all the three parties. Three, where there are really justifiable difficulties the company can agreed to compensate and resettle the farmers and the CGK. Fourth, and I hope it will not reach this far, is for the CGK to buy the contentious parcel of land from the investor to retain its farmers for food security and wellbeing or more significantly secure its investment already completed on the said contentious parcel of land. However, the latter is the worst case scenario as it amounts to the community buying its own land using its own county resources via the County Government, akin to marginalizing and committing and injustice to the local government and its people by the international investor. This should be avoided at all costs for the image of KISCOL, CGK, the people of Kwale that they are anti-investment and for Peaceful coexistence. The need for a cordial Community-KISCOL and CGK relations for sustainable investment in line with the global Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be overemphasized now than ever.