Long wait for land compensation as Swazuri team exits

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Those with pending compensation issues are not looking forward to the end of the terms of the current National Land Commission (NLC) officials as this means a longer wait for their money.

They have expressed fears that expiry of the terms mid this month is likely to delay the compensation process.

For residents of Elgeyo Marakwet County, who gave up their land for to Kenya Flourspar Company, the exit of the commissioners means compensation will take longer following a fresh row between the government and the residents.

The more than 500 families that were displaced from their 9,070 acres have issued fresh demands to the government after it allocated Sh1 billion as compensation for loss of their ancestral land.

“Prof Mohammed Swazuri-led team should fast-track our compensation before they leave office on February 17. This will allow another investor to resume mining of the mineral,” said Joseph Kandie, the chairman of the Kimwarer Sugutek (Fluorspar) community.

Whereas the government has started the process to release Sh1 billion as compensation, residents are demanding Sh9 billion.

A multi-agency team drawn from the Mining and Land ministries, Office of the Attorney-General and NLC toured the area last year to fast-track the compensation process.

“It is pointless for the government to search for an investor before paying us. We will not allow any exploration to take place before we receive the money,” said Mr Kandie.

The fluorspar company suspended mining and laid off workers four years ago owing to a slump in prices of the mineral in world market.

“A collapse in market conditions has led to a dramatic reduction in fluorspar prices and demand and thus the company operations have become unsustainable in the current market,” explained managing director Nico Spangenberg then.

Local leaders have petitioned the government to allocate alternative land to the displaced to save them from the high cost of buying land elsewhere.

“Our people must be compensated as per the current rates and we will never accept anything less. The government should stay away from their land if they cannot be compensated appropriately,” said Micah Kigen, Elgeyo Marakwet ODM leader.

Mr Kigen, who has been at the front-line of championing for the compensation, called for the mapping of the areas and return of the land to locals where there are no deposits.

“Let the government give back our people land without mineral deposits but they have to be compensated too,” he said.

They insisted that in case the factory will reopen, locals and the devolved unit must be engaged to determine revenue-sharing formula before the new investor is allowed to start activities.

But Prof Swazuri told the Nation that the commission was still investigating claims that there were people who had been compensated Sh4.1 billion in the early 1990s through the then Elgeyo Marakwet District Commissioner.

However, affected landowners said over 200 people received Sh183 million.

“What has made the process take long is that we have probing if indeed there was compensation that took place before so that we are not blamed. My team has got the information and before we leave office, we will go back to the ground to solve this matter once and for all,” said Prof Swazuri.

Mining and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary John Munyes held talks with the locals and leaders in Eldoret in September last year where he revealed that there will be a vetting process to determine who will benefit from Sh1 billion.

The CS also said the delays in concluding the process had slowed due to the leadership crisis at the commission but sought to assure residents that the issue would be addressed.

The exit of the mining company left South Africa and Morocco as the remaining African counties extracting the mineral.

South Africa produces 300,000 tonnes annually, Morocco 100,000 tonnes while Kenya used to extract an average of 120,000 tonnes.

Fluorspar is used in the manufacture of fluoride for cooling plants. It is mined in Keiyo South sub-county, forming part of the riches of Kerio Valley.

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