By Kennedy Lumwamu
Construction of the Sh4.1 billion Eldoret bypass may not take off immediately after people whose land is meant to be compulsorily acquired instructed their lawyer to have payment stopped until various “pressing” issues are addressed.
The bypass, which stretches from Cheplaskei to Maili Tisa on the Nakuru-Webuye Road has been funded by the African Development Bank.
The Kenya National Highway Authority (Kenha) says already the government has released Sh300million to compensate those affected.
But at a meeting held at the Uasin Gishu County government offices on August 22, the landowners instructed their lawyer, Zephaniah Yego, to write to Kenha to have payment stopped because government wants to first compensate squatters at the Kenya Defence Forces land at Maili Tisa, instead of first reimbursing those whose land had been compulsorily acquired.
“Why does government want to pay for its own land?” poses Yego. It is simply improper. We know what has happened elsewhere, as in Ruaraka, which has seen (senior) National Land Commission officials censured and charged. This is what we are trying to stop.”
The aggrieved residents further feel that since the construction is not part of the Big Four agenda, if they do not press now, they may never get paid as it may not be a priority for President Kenyatta.
The landowners have unsuccessfully sought audience with Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago over the issue.
Those listed as beneficiaries are owners of 256 parcels along the corridor, who are also asking government to pay an extra 30 percent for the land value, not the 15 percent government has proposed.
There are also fears that some unscrupulous officials from the NLC may divert the money as the commitment letters for compensation were handwritten and unsigned.
Even as it feared AfDB may withdraw funding if these issues are not speedily addressed, causing the project – awarded to China Wu Yi – flop or stall, the land owners would rather seek legal redress now rather than let the project proceed to their detriment. They also want the money paid in full, not in tranches.
As these issues simmer, it is also emerging they have not received the valuations done by Kenha and NLC. Yego is assertive the landowners will not release their banking details for payment until this, and the other pending matters, are settled.(