Community campaign leads the European Investment Bank to withdraw from geothermal project in Kenya
Update, November 3, 2019: In the early morning of Sunday 3 November, more than 100 people of Lorropil village, Nakuru County, Kenya were forcibly evicted and had their homes burned down reportedly by armed police officers. The residents have received ongoing threats of forced eviction, most recently on 28 October, when government officials reportedly showed up at Lorropil village ordering residents to vacate the village. IAP strongly condemns the forced evictions of Lorropil village. Civil society groups and other actors have been organizing against the forced evictions and are working to address immediate concerns.
Update, October 31st, 2019: Community representatives report that on October 28th a high powered delegation, including the Nakuru County Commissioner, descended upon the Lorropil village with over 40 vehicles threatening and intimidating residents to vacate by this coming Sunday, November 3. The county commissioner subsequently ordered the arrest of the families, terming them “fake squatters.”
October 28th, 2019: Following engagement with affected communities and civil society groups about human and environmental rights concerns, the European Investment Bank is no longer pursuing a €155 million ($192 million) loan for the Akiira I Geothermal Power Plant in Nakuru County, Kenya. The loan would have covered half of the estimated €310 million ($380 million) project cost. The three villages impacted by this project are RAPland, Suswa and Loroppil.
“The pull out of the European Investment Bank from funding the Akiira 1 Geothermal Project is a great hope to so many families. It brings great joy to go through a process of advocating for the rights of people and to receive a positive response that seeks to protect the rights of persons who are being affected,” said Jackson Shaa of the Narasha Community Development Group.
Community and civil society groups have maintained that the project would adversely affect people and the environment, including the rights of indigenous communities. As Maasai, it is their right as indigenous peoples to give or withhold consent in order to preserve their unique culture and identity. For consent to be given, the communities had demanded involvement in the decision-making process and ongoing access to information about the project, in their own language.
“This decision is worth celebrating because ultimately, the European Investment Bank listened and acted. The Akiira project would significantly have restricted the people’s pastoralist livelihood and contributed to air and water pollution. The decision is quite timely and important especially since people in Loroppil village have been under threat of forced eviction for this and other geothermal projects in their area,” said John Mwebe of the International Accountability Project.
The results of community-led research emphasized that the communities deserve an open, transparent and accountable engagement process in order for their development priorities to be adopted and their rights are to be fully respected.
“We are glad the European Investment Bank has taken our concerns seriously and also informed the project promoters that forced evictions are illegal and not acceptable. The EIB’s decision is a signal to others considering financing for Akiira geothermal development. We are also satisfied with the EIB’s commitment to reassess RAPland (“Resettlement Action Plan Land”), if evidence shows that the land was inhabited before RAPland was installed,” said Anna Roggenbuck of CEE Bankwatch Network.
The International Accountability Project (IAP) first learned about the project through the Early Warning System, a global initiative that monitors proposed development projects and exchanges accessible information and training materials with those likely to be affected.
After an initial review, IAP reached out to its partners in Kenya including the Narasha Community Development Group and Jaama Resource Initiative. Consequently, in April 2018, Narasha Community Development Group and IAP facilitated a community-led research effort to document the communities’ level of engagement in the project planning process.
In August 2018, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre shared the Narasha Community Development Group’s and IAP’s preliminary research results and recommendations with Akiira Geothermal Limited and requested their response. Akiira Geothermal sent a response to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, which is posted on their website. IAP, on behalf of all partners, shared the preliminary results with the European Investment Bank and local officials. In October 2018, IAP with the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Jaama Resource Initiative and Narasha Community Development Group met again with community members and local officials to receive updates and confirm the communities’ recommendations. A final report was produced and, with the support of Counter Balance, delivered to the management of European Investment Bank and its Board of Directors in January and May 2019 respectively. The final report was also shared with Akiira Geothermal Limited in September 2019.
According to documents from the European Investment Bank, the Akiira 1 Geothermal Power Plant intended to be the first phase of a larger 140 megawatt geothermal project. Akiira Geothermal Limited is comprised of Centum Investments, American firms Ram Energy, Marine Power, and the Danish company, Frontier Markets.
After media attention surrounding the European Investment Bank’s decision, Centum Investments responded in a public statement that, “Despite recent claims in the media, no social nor environmental concerns have been brought to our attention as a result of our exploratory drilling activity.”
Africa Business Daily: EIB cancels Sh19.5 billion Centum geothermal loan
Global Geothermal News: Funding Setback for 70 MW Akiira One Geothermal Project
Kenya Tribune: EIB cancels Sh19.5 billion Centum geothermal loan
Think Geoenergy: EIB withdraws funding for geothermal project in Kenya