June 16, 2024

Uyombo Nuclear Power Plant: Locals Raise Red Flag Over Shady Process

Residents of Uyombo in Kilifi County attending the anti nuclear sensitization meeting at Kwa Bomu Bomu over the weekend (Photo By Mwakwaya Raymond)

By Mwakwaya Raymond

Email: thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

Nuclear Power Authority (Nupea) has been criticized for secretly conducting public participation to justify its intention of putting up nuclear plant at Uyombo village of Matsangoni in Kilifi County.

This comes in the wake of realizing majority of the local people are against the plan to construct the nuclear plant. The power plant has generated more animosity and hostility against the Nupea officials than support.

On December 16, 2023, Nupea officials secretly ferried a number of residents to Kilifi township to partake public participation but the move hit headwinds.

The move was supposed to counter attempts by the Uyombo community’s sensitization forum on the effects of having the plant there when those who had been ferried to bolster support of the officials turned against them to their chagrin.

Through alerts, the entire community gathered to deliberate on the impact of nuclear plant, but sensing danger, Nupea hurriedly organized a three-day workshop for handpicked participants so as to counter the community’s forum.

Sources privy to the going-on that requested anonymity due to his position in the society complained of ‘ulterior motive’ on the part of Nupea for coercing village elders and local administrators with an aim to sabotage the residents’ resolve and justify its intent to establish the plant.

Although Nupea managed to marshal a substantial crowd of pastors, women leaders and a handful of journalists, however, it failed to garner the requisite grassroots support for its intended plan. 

Some journalists who attended the three-day forum at a Kilifi hotel were categorical that majority of those in attendance did not support the power plant.

According to the journalists the forum turned hostile after the pastors declined to buy the idea or become the crusaders of Nupea’s ‘petty project’.

“Our people look upon us as their spiritual leaders. To show them the rightful way on matter spiritual or worldly so we cannot betray our loyalty,” one pastor said adding that they could not tell the dangers of the proposed nuclear plant.

Another pastor was disturbed and wondered why Nupea was pushing for the construction of the plant at Uyombo against the will or wishes of the local people who had made their feelings known to them.

Sources within Nupea said Uyombo was their preferred site after ruling out other proposed ones for various reasons.

For instance, Kisumu was ruled out because of the equator that cuts across it while Kwale and Lamu were said to be highly volatile because of hostile communities unlike Uyombo in Kilifi.

A lady who talked on condition of anonymity said she had been called by her village elder not to attend the Uyombo community forum, but instead go to the Kilifi workshop for public participation forum when she had alighted from a matatu at Matsangoni on her way home.

“Though l attended the workshop, I didn’t support the project to be put up at Uyombo,” she said.

Without giving prove, she alleged they were promised some good monies, but only ended being reimbursed their fare of Sh2,000 and an umbrella.

Land being a thorny issue, the residents expressed fears the issuance of title deeds by the Head of State recently could find its way to wrong hands that could end up selling to unscrupulous persons for the unwanted power plant.

Claiming the exercise was marred by irregularities and corruption, several inhabitants of the area failed to benefit from the exercise despite being rightfully habitants of there.

“A local administrator called me to send a copy of my Identity Card and that’s how I managed to get a title and now I own a land at Uyombo,” said one of the beneficiaries who sought anonymity for security reasons.

Matsangoni assistant county commissioner (ACC) Precious Dama confirmed that the exercise was not above board and that the government has launched investigations on the same.

“We’ve received several complaints on the way the titles were issued and we are currently conducting comprehensive investigations and soon we shall unravel the truth.”

In earlier forums, Nupea liaison Director Basset Buyukha made it clear that it would only engage legit land owners with title deeds once they begin compensation of those who would be displaced once the plant starts its activities.

Through the courtesy of Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), the residents were taken through their fundamental rights as enshrined in the 2010 Constitution.

They were taken through the effects of nuclear power plant with reference to previous catastrophes and drawing examples globally.

Justus Kithi Tsofa, an environment and community lawyer, played a crucial role of enlightening the locals not only on their rights, but also the effects of nuclear power to their lives and area as a whole.

Electrical engineer Hinzano Mumba asked why the government was keen on putting up a Sh500 billion plant at Uyombo while there are other options that are less costly and could still produce power for a large scale usage.

“If the government is really sincere in going green then it should invest in other options of power generation other than the nuclear plant.”

CGJEA executive director Phyllis Omido says she will not relent in the fight against the construction of the nuclear power plant until the government abandons its mission.

“If the government cannot listen to the plights of the Uyombo Residents we will have no any other option but to seek legal redress.”

Reports indicate that Uyombo beach is adopted as UNESCO biosphere for it has unique species of fish such as dolphins apart from being home to the endangered turtles which use the beach as breeding grounds.

Again, the Uyombo-Watamu Marine Park is the oldest not only in Kenya, but also in Africa where locals earn their living through fishing and other social economic activities.

Former Chairman of the defunct Kilifi County Council Anthony Kingi says these are some of the reasons why the Uyombo residents are up in arms against the establishment of the nuclear power plant on their motherland.

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