The inconsistencies started way back in 2016. When a supposed public hearing stalled before it even started. The National Environmental Tribunal (NET) advised Save Lamu that the hearing would take place in one of the venues on the Island, only to be informed, the night before, that the hearing would be held at Kwasasi, the project site, an inaccessible and insecure place for Save Lamu and its partners.
Fast forward to 2017, a year later, and the ongoing hearings have already stalled three times, with at least two judges failing to show up at the courts. Meaning no hearing could go on as the tribunal is composed of a five bench judge, leaving only three of them and that number does not constitute a quorum. Shakilla Abdalla, Lamu County Women Representative had this to say, “This shows carelessness on the side of the judges to continue sabotaging these court processes by absenting themselves from the sessions without any sensible reason!”
Shakila Abdalla being interviewed accompanied by deCOALonize supporters in Nairobi
Save Lamu, the appellant of the case had to ferry their witnesses to Nairobi. Some of them came from as far as The USA, Australia and China. These unjustified postponements are incurring costs for Save Lamu, who are carrying the financial burden of defending their Island.
Poor communication about the venue caused further delays and confusion. In some instances, The National Environmental Tribunal (NET) was reluctant to announce the hearing venue in advance. They would change the venue just a few minutes before the start of the hearing, creating confusion and logistical problems for those keen to participate.
Inside the courtroom, the project’s proponent Amu Power fought tooth and nail to gag activists from using social media and voicing their opinions on the ongoing hearing. So far, they have managed to bar live media streaming of the case and insist on stringent measures to stop activists from completely participating in the court processes. Several social media posts from activists were printed and presented in the courtroom as evidence of their “interference” with the legal process.
Under these questionable occurrences in the legal proceedings, the public is left wondering about the independence of NET and the outcome of the case. In response to a tweet from an activist that read, “We hope the Tribunal will not be compromised,” the NET’s chairperson responded, “We have never experienced any cases of compromise.”
Public eyes and ears are now wide open for any foul play as they await the upcoming hearing dates on July 13th,14th,18th,20th and 21st 2017. But as informed citizens of our nation, we shall continue to air our views as enshrined in our constitution and speak openly against this coal power plant.
Written by Prince Papa
Credits: Photos from deCOALonize Kenya archives