June 16, 2024

Kwale’s Denyenye Residents Implicate Bamburi Cement Ltd for Deaths and Injuries of Locals 

One of the Residents addressing the Media (at Denyenye (Photo By Carolyne Katana)

By Caroline Katana

Email,thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

Residents of Denyenye in Kwale County are up in arms against Bamburi Cement Ltd over incidences of death and injuries occasioned by a land dispute between the community and the private developer.

So far, the dispute has caused death of three persons while 10 others are nursing dog bite wounds, as welfare and human rights bodies heighten  calls for protection of the locals and thorough investigations into the incidences. 

Bamburi cement plans to construct a cement firm in Denyenye where it has acquired a approximately one thousand acres of land for the envisaged project.

On December 10, 2023 while commemorating International Day of Human Rights in collaboration with Transparency International and Kwale Mining Alliance, the residents demanded for their safety and security.

“The genesis of this conflict is that Bamburi Cement has interfered with  community activities that have been taking place for decades by claiming to own Block 1, 2, 3 and 4 contrary to the community’s land laws,” a resident Mr Mfaume Hamisi Hassan alleges.

According to him, Bamburi cement legally owns block 2 and not any other; therefore, Bamburi Ltd has no authority to stop any economic activity in those other blocks.

“Our question is: how did Bamburi acquire block 1, 3 and 4, which was under lease that was mysteriously back dated without our consent?” he posed.

At the same time, he accused the GSU officers and a private security firm  manning the blocks for the deaths of three people and injuries of 10 others by dogs. 

“People are being victimized by the GSU and G4S officers while collecting firewood, farming, fishing and those cutting stones at the quarries. Up to date, three people died as a result beatings by the GSU officers while others sustained dog injuries after the canines were unleashed on them.”

Echoing his sentiments, Ms Mwanaisha Tengeza, another resident, claimed the people’s rights and freedoms were being violated with impunity.

“People in this area have been victimized a lot. Some women who normally fetch firewood from the controversial land go through rape, harassment and defilement in the hands of the officers manning the land,” she alleged adding that the torture was traumatizing women and girls.

Unfortunately, according to her, most cases were going unreported to authorities because of fear and fear of cultural stigma. 

She said the abuses were causing  trauma and  depression among the victims.

Narrating her ordeal, a local (whose name we withhold for her privacy)  said: “I went to collect firewood but later in  the day GSU officers came to my house and defiled me with my two daughters. Since then my children are traumatized. The bitter part of it is that i tried to seek assistance, but I was told GSU officers can’t be sued, so I dropped the case.”

 *Ignorance* 

Lack of awareness, harmful culture and traditions, poverty, rights violations, lack of legal system are some of the impediments causing the status quo to prevail.

Mr Yusuf Salim Kitenje, a youth, called on relevant authorities to come with speed in settling the dispute so that the community can access justice.

“We don’t oppose the plans of establishing a plant  by Bamburi cement because that is  part of development, however, I strongly condemn rights violations by the officers manning the controversial land so I want this matter to be addressed once and for all.”

But for Mr Mfaume Hamisi Hassan, the government and humanitarian organisations must move with speed to resolve the conflict before starting a new procedure to ensure public participation at every step of the Bamburi cement project.

Kwale Mining Alliance deputy coordinator Mr Elsheba Okech called on Bamburi administration to investigate the cases and make a report for the community.

“It’s unfortunate to hear that community has reported the cases to Bamburi cement administration, but up to now no action has been taken. It’s worrying because there is no transparency. I want to challenge the G4S company and security agencies to investigate the incidents and give their findings publicly,” she said.

According to her, there is hope of justice as 10 cases of dog bites have been reported at Kwale police station while asking the residents to report violence cases on time for justice.

“We want victims of violence to report cases on time and make sure they produce evidence in court for them to access justice. Justice delayed is justice denied. If they don’t raise their voices and defend themselves they will never get justice.”

“We have had so many cases of violence in this area whereby girls are defiled while boys are sodomized and the cases are not reported. That is why we decided to create awareness among the community on how to protect the rights of their children and themselves.”

Kwale County Assistant Commissioner Ms Halima Hassan said the lack of information sharing was an obstacle to access justice.

At the same time, the ACC challenged youths to embrace education for them to win job opportunities.

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