By Machuki Dennson
Plans are at advanced stage to commission the Isiolo International Airport soon but the destiny of the people who were displaced from there hangs in the balance. Several people were forced to relocate since the government decided to expand the then airstrip to an international airport about five years ago.
So far according to the Isiolo County Commissioner George Natembeya there are about 33 people who are genuinely seeking compensation from the Kenya Airports Authority KAA. He said the KAA found it difficult to compensate people when two groups came out claiming the ownership of the land in the airport. One resident who is a victim told Radio Shahidi that another group of people came from nowhere with title deeds claiming to be legal owners of the land and therefore entitled to compensation.
Talking to Radio Shahidi in a breakfast show interview Isiolo North legislator Joseph Samal blamed the defunct Isiolo County Council which played foul from the onset. The County Council reportedly tried to relocate people to other parcels of land within Mwangaza, Kiwanjani and Chechelesi which was already settled on. The displaced were fiercely fought and settlement just became impossible for them yet they had already left the airport.
Isiolo North MP Joseph Samal
Samal wondered why the victims were not given cash to resettle themselves as it was done in Tigania West in Meru County, where 80% of the airport lies. Samal said the process began long way before he became an MP yet the process is not yet complete. He says he suspects some corrupt deals have been done hence affecting the innocent Kenyans.
The Isiolo County Commissioner on his side is questioning where the money meant for compensation went when the defunct County Council tried to relocate them. According to Natembeya a blunder was done when officials of the county council relocated people to an already owned land and also mixing people of different communities together without due consideration or consultation. “All these were done by Isiolo County Council which brought the mess, they go doing planning in an area already occupied by people and giving out ballots, you give somebody who owned an acre a plot of land, a fifty by hundred or even meters or even less,” argues Natembeya. He further says that “No one is ready to answer where money issued by KAA to compensate the displaced people went.”
The Isiolo North Constituency CDF chairman Moses Leroshion on his side said the county council officials encountered a problem of double allocation which caused chaos. Leroshion said that several people sneaked in to claim compensation and therefore doubling the number of beneficiaries and the total cost.
However, Natembeya has shone light of hope by saying that the issue of compensation will be discussed in a progress report meeting by KAA officials on Wednesday in Isiolo. Natembeya told Radio Shahidi that finally compensation will be done before the Airport is commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta next year. He said that everyone claiming compensation will be required to produce allotment letters and show a team made up of KAA officials and thorough scrutiny done to compensate only the right beneficiaries. Those without even allotment letters will be required to prove that the land belongs to them historically. “Those who were living there from the beginning but have no allotment letters will still be compensated because they have the right, allotment letters are not the ones that give people right to own their land” said Natembeya.
Isiolo North legislator who also sits in the parliamentary committee for Transport and infrastructure, on his part has asked his constituents to visit his office and supply the CDF manager with adequate information so that he can follow up the matter from where it is stuck currently. ‘I don’t actually know where exactly I can follow up the matter from but I will do my part of consulting the KAA management, in the meantime all those affected please report the matter in my CDF manager’s office so that I can have enough information,” asserted Samal.
Another major displacement is looming when the airports gets started. All people residing around the airport will be relocated for security reasons according to the County Commissioner. A land of about 40 acres will be required to be left bare but Natembeya was quick to dispel fear by assuring that all the people will be given an early notice and compensation put into consideration. Responding on the same issue Samal said everybody should have their allotment letters ready for they will be compensated.
Samal revealed that large tracks of land have been bought around the airport by few tycoons who are “mikora,” grabbers.
The Isiolo International Airport is set to be opened soon after completion of construction which is almost over. Its official commissioning is set to be done by President Uhuru early next year.
Isiolo County Commissioner George Natembeya