Gazette committees to ensure mining benefits locals
Kenya has a rich mining sector. With the amount of titanium in Kwale county, Oil in Turkana, Niobium at Mrima Hill and other minerals including gemstones, the country has huge deposits of natural resources to fund a significant portion of the national budget.
While Kwale has the largest commercial mining, residents are still deep in poverty. That is because it has become the norm in Kenya to prioritise private benefits over public good.
The Mining Act of 2016 provides for the establishment of Community Development Agreements (CDAs). With the CDAs, the companies are obliged to support community development initiatives.
This was a great idea. The CDA regulations were enacted in 2017 to guide on the composition, role, and structure of the CDA committees to manage funds.
It is very unfortunate that the people of Kwale and Kajiado counties, who have the largest mining companies, do not have operational CDA committees.
Additionally, the framework and mechanisms to disburse funds from the national government to local communities are yet to be put in place by the Treasury. The delay seems to be deliberate.
Following the famous handshake on March 9, 2018, the Building Bridges Initiative task force was gazetted on May 31, 2018, which was less than three months.
Why is it that since the enactment of the Mining Act in 2016 and CDA Regulations in 2017, the CDA committees are yet to be gazetted?
Why are legislators slow in ensuring the committees are in place and operational, if policies that affect their allowances and salaries can be passed in a day?
Transparency International Kenya has been working to bring together all the stakeholders in Kwale to deliberate on the best approach to resolve challenges facing residents.
The meetings saw the formation of Kwale Mining Alliance Working Groups that are composed of government officials, civil society organisations, affected communities and mining companies.
Among the agenda items of the Kwale Mining Alliance Working Group are royalties and CDAs. These were further discussed during the National Mining Conference in 2019.
Mining Principal Secretary John Omenge made a commitment to have the CDA Committees gazetted before the end of 2019. This is yet to happen.
The CDA funds will help in development of schools, health facilities, transport systems and water projects, depending on the community’s priorities.
The projects should be as outlined in the CDA document. Thus, without the committee, there will be no agreement, hence no planned and agreed on projects to meet the community needs.
Stakeholders in the mining sector need to work together and come up with sustainable solutions to the challenges facing communities in the mining areas.
The multinational investors in the mining sector will only earn a social license by complying with the regulations that directly affect the rights of Wanjiku.
It is high time the government gazetted the committees so that affected communities can benefit from local resources. — The writer is a deputy programmes officer — Extractives at Transparency International -— Kenya