World Bank-funded Kenya company targets complainants

7 April 2017

In mid-February, the World Bank board approved an action plan responding to an investigation by the Bank’s accountability mechanism, the Inspection Panel (IPN), of the Kenya Electricity Expansion Project (KEEP). The investigation was initiated following a 2014 complaint by representatives of the Maasai community, including concerns over the resettlement process (see Observer Summer 2016, Spring 2015). On the same day as the approval, the KEEP project implementer, Kenya Electricity Generating Company Ltd (KenGen), secured a temporary injunction in the High Court of Kenya against 15 Maasai community members who had raised concerns about the project, restricting their access to two project  sites. In response, 19 civil society organisations, including Kenyan NGO Jamaa Resource Initiatives and German NGO Urgewald, wrote to the World Bank and other financiers of KEEP in March, calling on them to take “prompt action to urge KenGen to withdraw the charges”. While the charges were later withdrawn, Gretchen Gordon of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development stated that “it is very concerning that the Bank has not made it clear that this type of intimidation against project-affected communities is unacceptable”. Moreover, Gordon cautioned that “until the Bank actually enforces its own policies and takes an active role in restoring the grazing lands and livelihoods the Maasai lost due to its investment, these conflicts will continue.”

Furthermore, in January the IPN confirmed the registration of a November 2016 request for inspection of the Bank-financed Water and Sanitation Service Improvement Project (WaSSIP) from 47 residents of Murang’a county in Kenya. The project includes $85 million in financing for a system of tunnels, diverting water from a river to supply water to Nairobi, which the residents claim will lead to irreversible environmental damage and cause water shortages, with impacts on food and water security. An investigation will be initiated depending on the response from the Bank’s management. According to the IPN a response on the eligibility of the request is expected in mid April.