Lake Turkana People’s Declaration

Sunday, February 15, 2009

As Lake Turkana communities, Turkana, Dassanach, Rendille, Gabbra and Elmolo, we call for a reconsideration in the funding and support of the Gilgel Gibe III dam that is under construction on the upper Omo River. The Omo River is the main source of water for Lake Turkana contributing 80 percent of the lake waters.

The Importance of Lake Turkana

Turkana’s indigenous communities are highly dependent on the lake for their livestock grazing, watering, and fishing. Any impacts to the lake’s ecosystem would disrupt the indigenous economy, leading to an increase in conflicts in the area. Considering the unstable state of peace in Northern Kenya, such damage to the local economies would invoke a threat to regional stability.

We Declare

That we have given Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) the mandate to speak on our behalf, to communicate our grievances on the dangers that the Gilgel Gibe III being undertaken by the Ethiopian Government poses on our livelihoods and the survival of our natural resource, Lake Turkana.

We, the local communities, indigenous peoples are custodians of the biodiversity of Lake Turkana and its environs and have the inalienable right and responsibility to continue to manage, save, and further develop the biodiversity and above all enjoy protection from any destruction of the ecosystem and above all any external commercial interests that destroy the lake and its environs.

Aware of the reduction in the size of the lake brought about by Climate change

Aware of the concerns over the authenticity of the Environmental Impact Assessments carried out by the Ethiopian government.

Aware of the possible dangers that the Gilgel Gibe III poses which include but are not limited to:

• Retreat of Lake Turkana
• Increase in lake salinity
• Destruction of indigenous economies
• Loss of riparian forest and biodiversity
• Transboundary Issues
• Hampering potential development

Express our common concern of the dangers posed on Lake Turkana, its ecosystem, and our indigenous livelihoods by the Gibe III dam under construction on the Omo River which is a tranboundary river, shared by Ethiopia and Kenya

We oppose any current push towards development that is driven predominantly by commercial interest and which undermines our indigenous economies and denies us the little control we have over our already undermined survival.

Call to Action
We call on the Government of Kenya to take up the responsibility of protecting its citizens from having their indigenous livelihoods and potential development destroyed.

We call on the Government of Kenya to take a holistic approach to development, promotion of local control over resources, the active participation of the local communities in decision making, and ensure they are informed and consulted through out the process

We call on the Government of Kenya to take a lot more responsibility in the protection of its natural resources like Lake Turkana and others that are in danger of catastrophic damage due to lack of proper assessments and trade offs between indigenous community rights and development.

We call on the Government of Kenya to recognize the dangers posed by the Gibe III dam on the Lake Turkana and its ecosystem, and the animals in the lake as well as its peoples.

We call on the International Community to initiate a process to negotiate a legally binding agreement that follows the guidelines of the World Commission for Dams to ensure protection the rights of indigenous and local communities over their resources.

Our Declaration
By signing this document we declare that we stand alongside the Friends of Lake Turkana and have given them the mandate to undertake the necessary action to ensure the protection of Lake Turkana and its ecosystem, its people and their economies. We believe that the process undertaken to give the green light to the Gibe III project did not meet the required standards set by the World Commission for Dams. We were neither informed of the project’s impact nor were we consulted at any point of this process.