The government’s plan to build dams in northern Kenya and other semi-arid lands is running into headwinds after a group of MPs threatened to marshal their communities to stop the projects.
The MPs claim they were left out of the process, including the citing of the dams, despite having presented their views to the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly.
According to committee chairman Katoo ole Metito (Kajiado South), the dams called “peace dams” are meant to check communal and cross-border conflict brought about by drought.
About Sh1 billion for construction of the four dams in the counties of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and Tana River was approved in the Supplementary Budget II passed by the National Assembly two weeks ago.
More billions have also been allocated in the 2020/21 financial year, whose estimates are currently before the National Assembly.
The Nation has established that advertisement for the award of construction works is set to be done early this week.
The construction will be overseen by two regional development authorities- Ewaso Ngiro Development Authority and the Coast Development Authority.
MPs Dida Raso (Saku, Marsabit), Ahmed Ibrahim (Wajir North) and Abdikarim Osman (Fafi, Garissa) have questioned how the locations for the dams were identified.
“As the area MP, I consider this to be a blatant interference in the management of the affairs of my constituency. I was not involved where the dam should be built until recently when an engineer from the Coast Development Authority came visiting,” Mr Osman said.
About Sh100 million has been allocated to Irresa Teno Dam in Wajir, Marsabit’s North Horr constituency has two projects — Sh100 million for Malalba dam and Sh250 million for Chaffa-Chachane dam.
Boji dam in Mandera South has been allocated Sh250 million, Tulla dam in Tana River (Sh100 million) and Galmagala dam in Fafi constituency (Sh200 million).
Mr Metito said that all the legislators in the affected areas were engaged and requested to present their proposals.
In December 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Garissa County and announced that a dam be constructed in the county to cushion farmers and pastoralists against the vagaries of the perennial harsh weather conditions.
Mr Raso and Mr Ibrahim are planning to petition the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee not to approve further allocations of the funds when Defense PS appears before it on Friday this week to defend the ministry’s 2020/21 budget.
However their Mandera North colleague Abdullah Bashir, whose constituency did not benefit, said he has no problem which areas get dams but noted that all communities must be covered.
“Next time let’s have more of these dams. I know that not every area can benefit but let’s be fair in sharing the limited resources,” Mr Bashir said.
Bura MP Ali Wario, whose constituency is also not a beneficiary of the project noted that it is important for the area leadership and the locals to be consulted first before such projects are undertaken.
“This habit of people sitting in Nairobi and deciding for the people ought to stop. Proposals need to come from the affected communities. Choosing for them is not a good idea because the needs on the ground may be different,” he added.
Mr Metito said that all the MPs in the affected areas were engaged and requested to present their proposals to the Ministry of Defense.
“It’s our desire that every constituency in the area benefits so as to address conflict among the Kenyan communities in the region as well as curtailing movement across the border in search of water by our people,” Mr Metito said.