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Omamo land row threatens Sh1.3bn solar plant project




Omamo land row threatens Sh1.3bn solar plant project

Former Cabinet minister William Odongo Omamo in a past event. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Construction of a Sh1.3 billion solar power project at the Nandi-Kisumu border hangs in the balance following a protracted dispute over land belonging to a Moi-era Cabinet minister.

In the latest feud, squatters on Wednesday invaded the land owned by former Agriculture minister Odongo Omamo, and forcibly evicted surveyors who were erecting beacons.

The against over 3,000 squatters are demanding 2,000 acres out of the 5,000-acre parcel, arguing that Dr Omamo irregularly acquired the land belonging to the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) in Tindiret sub-county.

An international investor has leased the land to host the 40-megawatt (MW) solar power plant, a step-up sub-station and a 1.8 kilometre transmission line of 132KV connecting to Lessos-Kisumu hills power main line.

Local leaders led by Nandi County executive in charge of youth and sports Elly Kurgat said the squatters want the construction of the solar project suspended to allow for more consultations between the county government and the solar company.

“The squatters were kept in the dark and they don’t know the economic importance of the solar project and they are against the leasing of the land to the solar company for 20 years,” said Mr Kurgat.

The official said the county should lead the talks because the land hosting the solar plant is owned by “an absentee landlord, the Omamos”.

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF), a global $8.3 billion fund that is financing green energy projects, will fund the solar plant with the African Development Bank (AfDB), being the implementing agency on the continent.

A Portugal-based company, Martifer Solar, will be involved in the solar farm as the technical partners to develop, build and operate the project during its lifetime.

Speaking on behalf of the squatters, Mr Kiptui Chepkwony yesterday insisted that construction for the solar project should be suspended.

“The 5,000-acre land owned by the late Dr Omamo was illegally allocated the ADC farm at the expense of genuine squatters,” said Mr Chepkwony.

But Nandi County Lands Chief Officer Dr Solomon Mangira stated that the land is a private property and the invasion by the squatters amounted to a criminal offence.

“The county government will not engage in private land, which the Omamo family has leased out to an international investor for the construction of a 40-megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Nandi County and whose results will lead into reducing cost of power sector and improve local economy,” said Dr Mangira.