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Fresh compensation row rocks Sh62.3bn Thwake dam

More than 500 families living in the proposed controversial Thwake dam area in Kitui and Makueni counties are in a dilemma as a fresh compensation and resettlement controversy dogs the Sh62.3 billion project.
The residents, who were supposed to have vacated the site by February, are yet to be fully paid for their land and the compensation process is now under investigation over alleged fraud.

With the onset of the April rains and the project hanging in the balance, the residents are torn between obeying a government quit notice and going back to their farms.

Most families living at the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers in Kitui and Makueni counties have not been paid while others were only given part of the value for their land excluding developments like housing, fruit trees, and irrigation systems.

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PAVE WAY FOR PROJECT

Dr Daniel Kisangau, a resident, said this was contrary to earlier assurances by the government that they will be compensated fully before being asked to move out to pave way for the project.

“There is a lot of confusion. Most people have not been paid but they are expected to have moved out by now,” said Dr Kisangau who is the Director of South Eastern Kenya University’s Wote campus.

The lecturer, who is the secretary of Thwake land owners committee, said those given partial payments risk squandering all the monies and should be allowed to continue tilling their farms to feed their families.

The residents have now petitioned Parliament to intervene and save them from the alleged land compensation scam, and ensure they are not forced out until their full payments are made.

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According to the petition seen by the Nation, most of the farmers have been undercompensated in a process littered with deliberate errors while other strangers who have no land in the area have been paid.

EXPLAIN DISCREPANCIES

They want Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri summoned to explain the discrepancies in reimbursement rates.

The resettlement of the families was budgeted to cost Sh2.4 billion and the compensation funds were provided in this year’s budget.

However, the compensation process has become the subject of investigations by various agencies including an internal audit by the Water ministry after the land commission asked for a further Sh1.5 billion.

This escalates the compensation budget to Sh3.9 billion.

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LAND EVALUATION

Sources at Maji House revealed that the ministry, which supervised the surveying and valuation of the land, has demanded the commission justifies the demand for more funds and launched its own internal probe.

Mr Wamalwa and Dr Swazuri have been summoned to appear before the parliamentary Committee on Lands to explain why hundreds of families had not been fully compensated.

“We ask the National Assembly to liaise with the relevant government agencies to establish whether the survey for acreage of plots was done professionally and if not, recommend a repeat,” the petition reads.

The petition, presented by Kitui Rural MP Charles Nyamai, asked Parliament to intervene to ensure the families were rightly compensated by reviewing payments each resident is entitled to and clearance of their outstanding amounts.

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