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Karo Airstrip, Kenya

Plans for a new airport in Mandera have met with opposition from residents since 2013. A number of project sites have been proposed, the most recent would restrict access to a water catchment area that pastoralists depend upon to sustain livestock


An international airport in Mandera County, in north-eastern Kenya, was first proposed in 2013, but has faced opposition at every stage of development. Initially the airport project was launched in the administrative division of Libehia in Mandera East. A feasibility study costing about USD3 million was conducted then the project stalled and moved to Wargadud in Mandera South.[1] Wargadud residents refused to be relocated to make way for the project.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Karo Airstrip, Kenya
State or province:Mandera East
Location of conflict:Karo, Khalalio ward
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

A proposal for a new airport in Mandera was initiated by the Mandera County government in 2013. Governor Ali Roba said the airport would be one of the key drivers of the county economy and that farm produce and animal products from the region would be processed and exported to earn foreign exchange.[2] The groundbreaking ceremony for the project, then named Mandera-Wargadud Airport, attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta, took place in May 2016. But a week later Alwahab Enterprises Limited, the contractor that had been awarded the Sh600 million (USD 5.93 million) contract to construct the airport, moved to court to file a petition to stop the project, challenging the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) which had overturned the award of the tender and directed Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) to award the tender to another company, SEO & Sons.[9]

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,930,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:SEO and Sons Limited - Awarded tender to construct Mandera Airport, tender subsequently cancelled due to forgery claims, case submitted for judicial review in 2018
Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) from Kenya
Alwahab Enterprises Limited - Awarded tender to construct Mandera Airport, the award was overturned and the tender granted to SEO and Sons Limited
Relevant government actors:Mandera County
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) -
Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) -
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsHealth problems caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsInter-clan conflict
Loss of access to grazing land for pastoralists
Loss of access to water for pastoralists
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Relocation of airport site from Libehia to Wargadud then to Karo
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although construction of the airport has not commenced there are serious concerns over the potential impacts on pastoralists' access to grazing land and water. Residents have complained that they have not been consulted about the project and of a lack of transparency regarding funding. There is lack of clarity over the land area that would be required for the airport.
Sources & Materials

[1] Ali Roba blames selfish traders, clan politics for failed airport projects, Daily Nation, 17 March 2019
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[3] Mandera Airstrip Row, KTN Kenya, 13 March 2019
[click to view]

[4] Turkana, Mandera and Samburu top list of poorest counties, Daily Nation, 23 March 2018
[click to view]

[5] Petition - Stop the Karo Airfield Project, 14 March 2019
[click to view]

[6] Governor Roba’s Statement on Karo Airstrip Refuted, NFD Dispatch, 16 March 2019
[click to view]

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[8] Garissa court stops Karo airstrip project pending determination, Kulan Post, 27 March 2019
[click to view]

[9] Contractor sues to stop airport project, Mediamax, 30 May 2016
[click to view]

[10] Graft agency probes award of Mandera airport tender, Standard Digital, 11 July 2016
[click to view]

[11] Kenya’s Mandera Airport construction tender cancelled, Construction Review Online, 5 October 2016
[click to view]

[12] Republic v Kenya Airports Authority Ex-Parte Seo & Sons Limited [2018] eKLR, Kenya Law, 21 March 2018
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Petition - Stop the Karo Airfield Project
[click to view]

Mandera Airstrip Row, KTN Kenya, 13 March 2019
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:4132
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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