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Tana Delta Saga: Coast Requires Strategic Leadership
Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2008 @ 23:05:00 CST by kwp


Kenya Weekly Post Special Report:

The recent political clatter emanating from the Governments intention to lease the Tana Delta begs for a much closer scrutiny of the current political leadership, by the public, because it is symptomatic of a much bigger problem that has been facing the Coast province and its people.

The governments plan to lease 40,000 hectares of the Tana Delta region to the Qatar government for the purpose of growing food and in return receive funding for the multi-billion-shilling Lamu port project may sound economical sound, but if allowed to take place it will continue the marginalization of the local communities in that the beneficiaries of these project will in reality be the fat cats that will be flying in from Nairobi. .

Land issues are very sensitive especially at the coast province which has been unfairly used by the successive central Governments to alienate the indigenous people.

This time around, the Coast province appears destined to the continuation of the same exploitation despite promises by ODM and PNU's platforms during the December 2007 general elections. While courting for votes the coalition partners had vowed to create a permanent solution to the land problem.

It is even further disturbing that the Government would use the same resource that is so central to the preservation of the indigenous people of these areas to placate their foreign partners.

Why didn’t the Government see it fit to let the Mau Forest settlers remain at the national resource yet find it wise to initiate an horticultural project in an area that is home to some of the rarest birds and if developed wisely has the potential to attract eco tourist that will readily impact the countries foreign reserves and the local community without much disturbance to the eco-system.

It is because of the sensitivity of this issue that The Kenya Weekly Post has embarked on presenting this special report to highlight the Plight of the Tana Delta.

To better appreciate this unique Eco system, it is imperative that one understands the geo-physical position of the Galana and Tana River; these are two of the most important Rivers in the Southern part of the Coast province. 

The Galana River, with its source in Central Province, is joined by Tsavo River at the famous Tsavo West National Park. The upper part of the Galana River is called Athi , while at the coast it forms Galana or Sabaki.

The Tana River which also starts from central Kenya flows all the way to the Indian Ocean. Both these rivers pour its waters into Indian Ocean; Galana or Sabaki pours its water near Malindi while Tana River empties much closer to Lamu.


      The Tana River Delta                                                                                    Galana (Sabaki) River

As these rivers make their way towards the coast, they always carry rich top soil hundreds of kilometers downstream and deposit it along the coastal region before pouring their water into the Indian Ocean.  Silt deposits provide the Tana Delta region with the potential for a high agricultural viability.

A good example of the wonders that could be replicated here can easily be seen along the Nile.

Egyptians have for Centuries utilized the silt along the Nile to provide a sustainable agricultural economy that has anchored the desert state. In addition, canals and streams are methodological constructed to irrigate farms in an inexpensive form that requires little capital investment.

Given the Agricultural Viability of this region, The Kenya weekly post believes that any government lease with a foreign nation should have involved exhaustive consultation with the indigenous communities to gauge their feelings on the issue while exploring other ways of initiating development.

Even though the investment has the prospect of benefiting the people, this is their ancestral land and it did not fall on the governments lap like manna from heaven. They deserve to have a say in any decision that will permanently impact their way of life.

The funding for the Lamu port construction should not be the excuse to dis-enfranchise a whole community. When the government plans developmental projects in other parts of Kenya there is no quid pro quo, but instead the government gets loans or secure grants from bilateral partners, so why should the development of the coast require the dispossession of the indigenous lands?

1) The Kenya government should have made a transparent negotiation with the Qatar government, with the local community involved and represented.

2) The Kenya government should have 'pushed' for the sole ownership of this project to the local community or at least engaging them as partners.

3) An independent study should have been in place to undertake a research on the environmental effect on the region if 40 000 hectares of land all of sudden is utilized for farming ... what will happen to the wild animals, trees, and the entire eco-system?

4) Does the construction of the Lamu Port which is 'supposed' to be funded by Qatar government have anything to do with The Tana Delta deal?

On the other hand, the noise which has been heard from the majority of politicians regarding this transaction is questionable.

1) This region has been hit by floods and sometimes drought yet none of the political leadership were able to present a vision or study in this region which has potential of transforming the local community with such noble ventures such as Fish farming, irrigation and animal husbandry, water purification for sale and tourism.

2) The rhetoric which the politicians have been voicing the past weeks seems as good as gold but lacks credibility. They have surfaced as champions of the poor local community and advocating for their rights. They (politicians who oppose this deal) have derived a plan that the project should be owned and managed locally.

The Kenya Weekly Post position on this matter is that this is a scheme meant to create emotions without really engaging the concerned parties regarding this issue.

3) There is no question that employment opportunities would arise when such a project succeeds, whether under the Qatar government or the local entrepreneurs.

The concern which many coastal people have ,especially those who resides along the Tana Delta Region, is that, many vacancies especially those in the higher paying brackets would be filled by other communities from other provinces. Hence it would defeat the notion of opening avenues for the local community.

If we are to naively assume that this project would be handed over to the local Wananchi, who would benefit the most?

Not long ago a housing project in Nairobi was supposed to benefit the low and middle income earners to own their own houses yet this was never to be. The new owners of the National housing project ended up being the policy makers and politicians who helped in shaping the idea of the housing project.


The Question that The Kenya weekly post poses to both the Government and transactional leaders from the coast is:

Why after 45 years of languishing in hopelessness is the Coast leadership still unable to provide a viable model of developing the region and therefore exposing the region and its people to exploitation? Should it take for a Qatar government proposal for the politicians to oppose and appear as defenders of the region?

And why should the government agree to terms with Qatar government without the representation of the local community?

Why were the terms of this deal not transparent? Why were the short term and long term ecological and environmental effect on the region taken lightly?

Transformational Leadership starts with the development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite and convert potential followers. This vision may be developed by the leader, by the opinion leaders or may emerge from a broad series of discussions within a particular community. The important factor is the leader buys into it, and aligns his interest with the lager vision of the community. The coast leadership and government of Kenya has aligned their own interest ahead of the people in the Tana delta and by doing so have lost the moral ground to spearhead the Qatar project

Strategic leaders work in an uncertain environment on highly complex problems that affect and are affected by events and organizations outside their own.

Strategic leaders process information quickly, assess alternatives based on incomplete data, make decisions, and generate broad based support.

Strategic leaders often do not see their ideas come to fruition during their "watch" and their initiatives may take years to plan, prepare, and execute. This has important implications for long-range planning. On the other hand, some strategic decisions may become a front-page headline of the next morning’s newspaper.

The solution for Pwani lies in finding strategic leadership that will represent its interest at the national forum. What the region has are political caricatures invented by their political master in the many political parties to help in suffocating the voices of the coastal region.




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