Lamu Governor Issa Timamy has rejected a request by the Kenya Defence Forces for 10-square kilometres of land for a military base at Pandanguo in Lamu West.
The area requested is within the vast Boni Forest, a hideout for Al-Shabaab militants.
According to the governor, indigenous people, including the Boni and Sanye, live in the area and hiving off such a huge chunk means that some of them will be evicted from their ancestral homes.
Lamu is chronically unstable because of infiltration by fighters from across the border in Somalia, who use Boni forest for cover.
Yet the area is earmarked for investments worth billions of shillings, including a new port, oil pipelines and power stations, which will bring wealth and create jobs in the poor county.
Such investment will not be possible without security.
Leaders from the region, including Senator Abu Chiaba, Lamu West MP Julius Ndegwa and Woman Representative Shakila Abdalla, have criticised Mr Timamy’s decision and accuse the governor of failing to take into account the interests of the larger Lamu people.
Speaking to Nation in Lamu on Tuesday, Mr Chiaba described as unfortunate Mr Timamy’s decision, saying it should not have been a one-man decision and he should have involved other county leaders “who were elected by the people of Lamu like he was”.
The senator said he was not consulted on the governor’s decision and accused Mr Timamy of taking lightly security matters in Lamu.
“I am not happy with Governor Timamy on this matter touching on security. The national government is the mother of all the 47 counties. It is also the one in charge of security. It is therefore important for county government leaders to respect anything touching on security from the national government,” said Mr Chiaba.
He described security in the region as “very unpredictable” since the June 15, 2014, Mpeketoni terror attack in which 60 people were massacred and property worth millions of shillings destroyed.
Since then, there have also been an on and off attacks around that area by criminals suspected to be Al-Shabaab militants.
He said apart from Pandanguo, there is also a need for the national government to establish more police and KDF camps in other areas, including Pangani, Kibaoni and Basuba region.
“I am sure the national government saw the need of establishing a military camp at Pandanguo, particularly considering what has been happening in the region. We need to sit down as leaders to discuss the matter and come up with an amicable solution. We need to let the government do its job,” he added.
Mr Chiaba said there was a need for county leaders to stop opposing but to cooperate with the national government to bring development to the region and this cannot happen if there is insecurity.
“Politicians should respect the national government and support its plans instead of politicising such matters,’’ he said.
Deputy Governor Eric Mugo, however, defended his boss saying when leaders are invited to meetings by the county government to discuss weighty issues they never show up.
He accused Mr Chiaba of spending most of his time in Nairobi and forgetting his responsibilities in Lamu.
Mr Mugo dismissed the reports that the county government had declined the military request for land, saying the devolved unit had written to the Ministry of Defence asking for further clarification on the exact size of the land required for the Pandanguo camp.
“Discussions are still going on. We have not refused but it is not clear what size of the land is required. There are also people settled on the land in question at the moment. We can’t just displace them like that. There must be a plan,” he said.