Declaration by People Affected by Sondu–Miriu Dam

Thursday, February 1, 2001

TO: Project Implementors (KenGen, JBIC, Govt. of Japan)
FROM: Sondu–Miriu Community
CC: All Stakeholders

Dear Sir/Madam:

Please find below the Declaration by the communities affected by the Sondu–Miriu Hydro–Electric Power Project (SMHHP) being implemented in Kenya and funded by the Japanese Government.

Many critiques by people affected by the Sondu–Miriu Hydro–Electric Power Project have been sent to, among others, the Japanese Government and KenGen (Kenya Electricity Generating Company, the local institution implementing the project on behalf of the Kenya Government). There have been several meetings between the affected communities, NGOs, KenGen officials, and the country representative of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation, JBIC, but thus far, affected people's grievances have not been addressed. There have also been serious human rights violations against those resisting the project. Last December an activist of Africa Water Network (an environmental NGO) who works with the dam–affected people was arrested, beaten and shot in the arm by the police. He is now facing criminal charges for incitement and trying to share information and raising awareness about the project, among others. We urge you to ensure that these kinds of human rights violations are investigated, the guilty parties prosecuted and the communities' grievances resolved. We further urge you to ensure that this project complies with international environmental, labour, and human rights standards as well as the original guidelines for project implementation as laid down in the initial project documents i.e., the feasibility study and the EIA report, before more lending for the project takes place.


DATE: 28/2/2000


We the people of Sondu–Miriu, forcibly displaced and affected by the Sondu–Miriu Hydro–Power Project


  • The secretive manner in which the Project has been imposed on us without meaningful consultations and lack of access to Project documents.
  • The improper valuation of our land by our Project implementers. Our houses, trees, cassava plants, bananas, groundnuts, maize, sisal, etc., were lumped together as land improvements without each of them being given individual value. We were not given an opportunity to bring in our own land valuers.
  • The paltry amounts of money given as compensation for our lands and homes. There is disparity in the compensation plan submitted to the donors and what we actually received. Moreover, some of us, like the ferry owners have been totally excluded from the plan
  • The tedious and confusing payment procedure. We are forced to open bank accounts with the Barclays Bank in Kisumu, which charge monthly commissions. This has been complicated by the delay in paying the 25 percent balance. Many of us who cannot read and write have been conned huge sums of money by their more knowledgeable relatives.
  • The failure of the project implementers to facilitate the acquisition of our new title deeds as they originally promised.
  • The rampant corruption and nepotism in staff recruitment. We have not been given the first priority in employment as was in the project document. Instead, recruitment is done in Kisumu and we are forced to part with money to have our children employed in the project.
  • Our deteriorating health conditions associated with the project such as the prevalence of respiratory, water–bone and water related diseases. No hospitals have been build as was promised in the project document. We have been turned away from the only existing hospital, which is exclusively meant for project staff.
  • The diversion of the river which we solely depend on for our livestock and domestic purposes. No alternative water sources have been developed as was promised in the project document. Women are therefore forced to walk long distances in such of water. Our livestock have died as a result of drinking from the river's polluted waters while indigenous fish species like Okoko and Ningu are disappearing as a result of oils and waste dumped into the river.
  • The indiscriminate destruction of large tracts of our forestland and pasture to give way for roads, tunnels, staff quarters, offices, etc. Our springs and streams have also vanished due to the destabilization caused by blasting of tunnels.
  • The destruction our culture shrines, like the magnificent Wan'g Odino (Odino falls), which will dry up after the diversion of the river upstream.
  • Lack of commitment by the project implementers to supply our schools, churches, market centers and homes with electricity as was promised in the project document.
  • The yet–to–be explained irrigation plan is likely to displace more people in the lower flood plains. We have not been told the direct benefits that will accrue to us from the plan.
  • Lack of tangible measures to control floods, which are likely to increase with the completion of the project.


1) That all people affected by a dam, both in the reservoir area and downstream, must be notified of the probable effect on their livelihood, must be consulted in the planning process, and must have effective political means for vetoing the project.

2) That the planning process should be transparent,participatory and accountable to all the affected people. This includes easy access to all project documents.

3) That the fundamental aim of the project implementers should be to restore the living standards and the earning capacities of displaced people and when possible to improve them.

4) That dam project should be environmentally sustainable. They should not put major natural resources like forests, water, etc. at risk because these are important sources of livelihood for the affected.

5) That the project should not violate the affected communities' cultural beliefs and heritage.


  • Properly planned seminars are held to notify us of the probable effect of this project on our livelihood.
  • A full assessment of the short and long–term environmental, social and economic effects of the project must be carried out, and an adequate opportunity provided for review and critique by independent experts.
  • Urgent measures must be taken to ensure that we regain forthwith our former incomes and be direct beneficiaries of the project for which we have sacrificed our own homes and land.
  • We must be properly compensated for our land and homes using an updated compensation plan.
  • The project must release forthwith the remaining 25 percent of our payments and take responsibility for the accrued bank interest.
  • The ferry owners must be included in the compensation plan as stated in the project document.
  • We must be given priority in employment as stated in the project document.
  • Efforts must be made by the project implementers to stop rampant corruption and nepotism in staff recruitment.
  • The project must plan and develop alternative water sources for our livestock, and document the use.
  • Urgent measures must be taken to treat wastewater before it is dumped into the river.
  • Community hospitals must be built and equipped to counter respiratory and water–borne illnesses.
  • Reforestation and soil erosion control program must be put in place in the reservoir watershed.
  • The project must implement its original commitment to supply our schools, churches, market centers and homes with electricity.
  • If our land is to be irrigated, the project must have as its primary goals, the production of food crops for local consumption rather than cash crops for export.
  • The project must demonstrate it will not adversely affect the habitats of endangered animal species and our cultural heritage sites like Wan'g Odino and the Odino Falls.
  • The project must put in place flood control measures for the flood–prone Nyakach plains as was promised in the project document.
  • The power project must be demonstrated to have no significant adverse impacts, such as those caused by loss of nutrients and soil salinisation, on the food supply or livelihood of people dependent on floodplain agriculture downstream.
  • That the threat to our safety due to potential collapse of the dam must be investigated and the analysis made freely available to any other interested party and us.
  • Urgent measures are taken to build our capacity and expertise on the technical aspects of the project, because we are the ones who will be burdened with the debt and the devastating consequences of the project.
  • Failure to comply with our demands in the next 21 days, we will be left with no choice but to seek alternative means of redress.

Madam/Sir, last but not least, the following NGOs and individuals deplore the illegal detention of Mr. Argwings Odera, Project Coordinator, Sondu–Miriu Advocacy Group and fully endorses the above Declaration of affected communities' grievances.

Mr. Pireh Otieno
Africa Water Network (AWN)

Mr. Fanuel Tolo
Climate Network Africa (CNA)

Mr. Argwings Odera
Project Coordinator
Sondu–Miriu River Community Advocacy Group

Mr. Duncan Odima
Africa Water Network (AWN)

Karla Schoeters, Director
Climate Network Europe

Jon Sohn
IFI Campaigner
Friends of the Earth–USA

Pauline Kisanga
International Baby Food Action Network–Africa Region
Mbabane, Swaziland

J.D Akumu
Executive Director
PanAfrican Research & Consultancy Associates (PARCA)

Dr. Moses Isooba
Executive Secretary
Uganda Wildlife Society

Tonje Folkestad, General Manager
FIVAS – Association for International Water and Forest Studies
Foreningen for Internasjonale Vann– og Skogstudier, Oslo – Norway

Aly Ercelawn and Muhammad Nauman
Citizens Alliance in Reforms for Efficient and Equitable Development (CREED Alliance)

Patterson Ogon, Director
Ijaw Council for Human Rights (ICHR)
Niger Delta, Nigeria

Muramuzi Frank, President
National association of Professional Environmentalists of Uganda (NAPE).

Francis Kidega, President
Makerere Law Society