deCOALonize newsletter

First half 2020 (January-June) issue

Coal in Kenya
16 min readFeb 11, 2021

Public Newsletter — 1st half of the year 2020 issue

Message from the deCOALonize board

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to read our first public Newsletter.

In this newsletter, you will get to understand this grassroots movement that is the deCOALonize Campaign. Why the communities in Lamu and Kitui are opposed to the proposed coal power plant and coal mining respectively and why you should join them in calling for sustainable development, and divestment to renewable energy.

You will also learn about the journey the affected communities have taken to stand up for their right to a clean and healthy environment as envisioned in the Kenya Constitution — the advocacy, lobbying, and the litigation journey. Indeed, I have to mention how the novel coronavirus pandemic has changed things for us in a way that has forced us to adapt quickly to ensure we don’t lose momentum.

The unprecedented Covid-19 crisis has significantly slowed down our coalition offline activities over the last few months. Nevertheless, there have been concerted online activities, organization, and mobilization that has placed the campaign activities on the radar in pursuit of creating a strong anti-COAL movement.

In as much as the current Covid-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, climate crisis and climate chaos are not going away — we must thus fight both concurrently. We are all called upon to confront, combat, and extinguish any environmental injustices coming our way. The deCOALonize coalition has been at the forefront in offering solidarity with communities living in Lamu and Kitui. We were particularly very active during the Annual General Meeting of General Electric (GE), which happened during the lock-down necessitated by the pandemic. We went online asking them to get out of coal with a clear online message directed at their shareholders.

The coalition is well cognizant of the fact that we are facing a huge “Digital divide”, movement restrictions, social distancing, and a ban of public gatherings during the crisis. And the Covid-19 pandemic as a public health issue has only compounded the issues but this will by no means break our resolve in demanding a stop to coal mining in Kitui and an establishment of a coal-fired power plant in Lamu.

We are indebted to galvanize our communities against our fundamental freedoms and civic space for environmental justice. Our coalition members are on the frontlines of people’s power, they are mobilizing online, communicating, exchanging ideas and lessons even during these unprecedented crises to ensure that the campaign stays afloat. We must confront the new realities, and while at it create spaces to innovate, become more effective, and sustain the deCOALonize movement.

In this issue, we’ll also share with you how you can join or volunteer skills or any support as well as keep you posted on the latest international and local news on coal. Enjoy, and don’t forget to subscribe!

Fredrick Njehu
deCOALonize Board Chair

About the deCOALonize Campaign

deCOALonize Campaign is a movement that was born out of a need to consolidate the community struggles both in Lamu and Kitui where there are plans to build a coal power plant and engage in coal mining activities, respectively. A group of community-based organizations in Lamu came together under the umbrella — Save Lamu — to protect the county from projects that could bring harm to the environment and erode the culture and heritage of the people of Lamu. In Kitui, the Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRCE) is the body the community is working with, in an organized way to oppose plans to mine coal in the 500 km square area in Mui basin.

Daniel Muoti from Kitui, Mui basin where there are plans to mine coal looks at a coal sample

Brief background

In 2013 the government advertised the Expression of Interest (EOI) for the development of the Lamu coal plant. Amu Power Company — a joint venture between Gulf Energy (developer and co-sponsor) and, Centum Investment (co-sponsor) won the government tender to build the power plant in 2014.

Smoke billowing from an active coal plant. The pollution causes asthma and cardiovascular disease

In October 2016, Save Lamu lodged an objection to the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC)- Now Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) — on the application by Amu Power for the 1,050 MW coal-fired power plant in Lamu County — just 20 km from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lamu Old Town — for an energy production license filed on October 28, 2016. ERC responded back through a letter indicating they will hold a public hearing to determine the matter. Unfortunately, ERC (now EPRA) had chosen an inaccessible and unsafe venue for its public hearing for reasons the community couldn’t comprehend.

Save Lamu holds demonstrations against the coal plant in Lamu

Save Lamu protested this and gave a press conference thereafter in Lamu on December 6th, 2016. ERC (now EPRA) would later through a gazette notice respond to the complaint that, after reviewing the views of stakeholder’s orders, it disallowed the objection.

The litigation Journey: A case of David vs Goliath

Petitioners and other community members from Lamu in court for the hearing of the coal plant case

When Lamu community members realized that the project proponents had the support of powerful individuals to see through the project, it became apparent that they had to go to court. And that’s how the community appealed the issuance of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license at the National Environment Tribunal (NET). As a result, NET issued a stop order for the proposed construction of the controversial coal plant. You can listen to the submissions here.

Members of the tribunal about to make their judgment on the Lamu coal plant case in June 2019

On June 26th, 2019 NET finally made their judgment canceling the Environmental Impact Assessment License that was issued by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on the Lamu Coal plant. Read the full judgment here

Below is a summary of the orders they made:
1. The EIA license of the coal plant has been revoked.
2. Amu power to undertake a fresh ESIA study in accordance with the tenets of the law.
3. No construction to be undertaken in the meantime.

Project Status — the fight is far from over

Save Lamu Lawyers from Natural Justice and Katiba consulting moments before the June 26th, 2019 judgment

On July 26th, 2019 Amu Power appealed the NET judgment at a Malindi Court. The court is yet to set a date for this hearing. Also, seeing the changes COVID19 has necessitated, it might take some time before the appeal is heard. We shall keep the public posted on any new updates on this case. This is to say that the coal power plant project remains a threat.

The communities in Lamu and Kitui are still continuing with community sensitization through Save Lamu and CHRCE in Lamu and Kitui respectively. We’re also continuing to lobby all key players who are backing this project to consider investments in renewable energy which are environmentally friendly and also cheaper than coal both in the short-term and the long-term.

Save Lamu conducting coal sensitization meeting in Kizingitini, Lamu

During this COVID19 pandemic, Save Lamu has focused on community challenges and needs resulting from the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of the virus. They have worked with other partners to create water points in different parts of the island to give their community members access to water and sanitizers.

A resident of Lamu sanitizing from one of the water points put in place by Save Lamu

Indeed, most of the people in Lamu depending on tourism lost their jobs while others like fishermen who fish at night couldn’t do this with the curfew. Save Lamu has since helped with food distribution while setting up centers for making the masks providing short term employment and distributing the masks to majority residents who couldn’t afford to buy them.

Save Lamu’s Khadija Shekuwe and Raya Famua prepping to distribute masks (they made) and food to Lamu residents

Funding status: ICBC is the only confirmed funder so far

Through successful lobbying with other international partners, the African Development Bank (AfDB) pulled out of providing the partial risk guarantee for the project leaving the Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) as the only publicly known funder. We’ve reached out to both ICBC and the Chinese government through their Ambassador to Kenya to get Chinese investors to divest from this project.

Chinese ambassador to Kenya invited members of the deCOALonize campaign to discuss the Lamu Coal plant

Why opposition to coal activities is critical

deCOALonize member from Kitui County reading our statement to the CS, Energy during the procession in June 2019 (Due to Covid19, we couldn’t hold any processions in June 2020).

Mining and burning (combustion) coal for electricity is an unwise investment for many reasons, below are samples.

Environmental impacts — It negatively impacts the environment; causing different forms of pollution including, air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, acid rain, toxicity, and the list goes on and on. For example, this report by Lauri Myllivirta, an air quality expert, reveals that the Lamu coal plant will cause up to 1,600 premature deaths and 800 low birth weights in the 25 years it will be operational from the pollution it will cause.

Kenyans join communities from Lamu and Kitui in protesting coal activities in the country in June 2019

Displacement of community — the manner in which both the Lamu coal plant and the Kitui coal mining proposed projects have been introduced to the affected communities, has been nothing short of irregular. The resettlement process hasn’t been completed and in the case of the proposed mining; the two signed concession agreements are not in the public domain.

Residents following a public forum by deCOALonize in Kitui. One of the many concerns among the community is the involuntary displacement, loss of livelihood and social exclusion

Health impacts — Both coal mines and plants have been known to cause significant health impacts on people from their emissions, coal ash, and effluent. The Kitui coal mines pause health risks like the silicosis and black lung diseases.

A resident of Mui Basin, Kitui displays a hand-written poster explaining his opposition to coal mining in Kitui

The Lamu coal plant pauses significant health risks from the particulate matter causing a plethora of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular effects, reproductive health issues, a decrease in life expectancy, as well as neurological effects from mercury.

Research from University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health has shown that infant mortality increases with an increase in coal combustion in countries like China, Mexico, Thailand, Germany, and Australia.

Community members watching a documentary on the impacts of coal. Save Lamu engaged in a number of outreach programs in Lamu to educate residents

Climate change impacts — Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are the two major greenhouse gasses responsible for global climate change. These two gasses are products of burning coal. In Kenya, climate change in the form of floods and droughts have caused great losses. In 2018, for example, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry through the National Climate Change Action Plan [Kenya]; 2018–2022 confirmed that we had 83 people killed by floods, and another 225,000 people displaced — 145,000 of them being children. These numbers will only go higher if we invest in coal projects that will exacerbate our carbon footprint by 6–10%.

deCOALonize Campaign joined other Kenyans in demanding for a shift to 100% renewable energy during the global climate strike in September 2019

Better and cheaper alternatives — Kenya is already generating about 93% of its electricity from renewable sources. We have the biggest wind and solar plants in the continent and are among the global leaders in harnessing geothermal. It is therefore unwise to deviate from this green energy pathway, especially at a time when the world is contemplating moving away from over-dependence on fossil fuel — particularly coal activities.

Residents of Lamu describe their understanding of what Shani Ya Lamu means to them and why they oppose the coal plant during the launch of Shani Ya Lamu in December 2019

International Renewable Energy Agency, (IRENA) found that 56% of renewable energy capacity added in 2019 achieved lower costs than new coal power plants and that by the end of 2021 it would be cheaper to build new solar plants than to keep operating active coal plants for more than half of the world total. We know the government has pretty solid engineers who know this. The question is, why push for a coal plant?

Kenya is a leader in renewable energy in the continent; why it would taint this record for coal plant that’s not commercially viable remains a mystery (Photo/Courtesy)

Tribute to a hero: the Late Abubakar Al-Amudy

‘‘Without death, life would go largely unappreciated. Life is a blessing, death it’s preservation. Live for every walking moment.’’ ~unknown

Sunday 21st June 2020 was a dark day in history as we learned of the sudden passing of Abubakar Al-Amudy, the Chair of Save Lamu. After a year of battling health issues including having surgery to resolve the problem, Mwalimu Al-Amudy succumbed to the ailment.

Abubakar spent most of the seven decades he was on this world representing and fighting for community rights and pushing for sustainable development projects in Lamu. His love for education was well known within Lamu and beyond as he served both as a teacher and also as a manager of the Stone Town Academy.

Abubakar was involved in pushing for fishermen’s rights to be recognized by the government of Kenya on the Lamu port project and was also key in leading and pushing for the revocation of the EIA license issued to Amu Power for the Lamu coal plant.

To all of us at deCOALonize campaign, Abubakar was a leader, a mentor, a friend, a father figure, and our source of strength. We are saddened by his passing.

We also celebrate his life well lived and know that he will forever live within our hearts and souls as we honor his struggle for a better world by continuing with the work that he has begun.

Fare thee well Abubakar, fair thee well our hero
Rest in Power
Tribute by deCOALonize Campaign Coordinator, Omar Elmawi, on behalf of the movement.

NB: Watch Save Lamu leaders led by Vice-Chair, Mohammed Mbwana speak about him as recorded by the Daily Nation here. You can also watch a video tribute by our partner Natural Justice here.

deCOALonize Campaign in the news

The fight against coal activities is not just a Kenyan fight. All over the world, there’s news of governments taking action against climate change and shifting from coal to renewable energy. Utilities including banks and powerful foundations including the Rockefeller are quickly moving out of the fossil fuel industry. Locally, the leading newspapers and TV stations have covered the controversial Lamu coal plant and Kitui coal mining with increasing interest. The Daily Nation aptly terming the project, “another bad idea”, following the deCOALonize campaign launch of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) report.

Below are links to news articles and videos on the Lamu coal plant that you might find instructive.

All these links are local media

  • Kenyans to pay sh 900 billion for proposed Lamu coal-fired plant ~> Baraka FM
  • Proposed Lamu Coal Plant the wrong choice for Kenya ~> Standard
  • Power from Kenya’s planned Lamu plant could cost 10 times more than estimated — Study ~> the Citizen Digital
  • State determined to proceed with Lamu coal program ~> The People Daily
  • Coal plant verdict healthy ~> Daily Nation
  • Lobby hails stopping of Lamu coal project ~> The People Daily
  • Activists to keep fighting Lamu coal plant ~> The Star

Coverage following the cancellation of the Lamu Coal Plant license by NET

  • Reprieve for Lamu residents as Sh200b coal project halted ~> The People Daily
  • Tribunal cancels coal power project license ~> Daily Nation
  • Sh200 billion Lamu coal plant stopped by tribunal ~> Business Daily
  • Tribunal stops Lamu coal power plan ~> Standard
  • Tribunal revokes Sh200bn Lamu coal plant’s license ~> The Star
  • Tribunal cancels Lamu coal power project license ~> Daily Nation
  • Courts halt Lamu Coal Plant project ~> Taifa Radio
  • Environment tribunal halts Lamu Coal project ~> Hope FM
  • This Too Is Kenya: How the deCOALonize Campaign Challenged a Politicised Bureaucracy and Legal System ~> The Elephant
  • An Inspiring Climate Victory in Kenya ~> Foreign Policy in Focus
  • Kenya halts Lamu coal power project at World Heritage Site ~> BBC

2020 Coverage

  • Lobbies want Africa to slow down on coal, oil investments ~> the Standard
  • Clean energy the way to go in a progressive world ~> the Citizen (Tanzania’s leading newspaper)
  • Growing Youth Activism for Environmental Protection in Africa~> Inter Press Service
  • How divestment stacks up against fossil fuels ~> DW News
  • UK ends coal power funding, Kenya still keen on Sh200bn coal plant ~> The Star

Important updates

deCOALonize Campaign joined other Kenyans at Uhuru Park protesting plans to hive off part of Uhuru Park for an expressway from JKIA to Westlands

As a movement, we join hands with other movements from time to time for solidarity. Daima team led by Wangari Maathai Foundation is such a movement among others. We shall be sending you updates on any activities we’re involved in that you can also take part in like the Daima Uhuru Park highlighted here.

Below are key updates on the deCOALonize journey. Please click on the links if you’re interested to learn more about the campaign’s engagement in the activities listed below.

Members of Save Lamu attended the UNESCO’s 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan, 30 June — 10 July 2019

1. UNESCO decision — On 9th June 2019 UNESCO World Heritage Committee delivered a strong decision asking the Kenyan government to follow the legal due process necessary to ensure sustainable development. More recently, the World Heritage Watch launched their 2020 report that puts into perspective some of the challenges the communities in Lamu have been going through. You can read Save Lamu’s statement on this report here. Also, let us know if you’re interested to support and help us continue lobbying important organs like UNESCO.

Petitioners from Lamu at the back trying to find a seat, moments before the NET judgment

2. The National Environment Tribunal (NET) delivered an important judgment on June 26th 2019. Click on this link to read the full judgment that revoked the EIA license for the construction of the Lamu coal plant.

Members of the deCOALonize Campaign at the Chinese Embassy to impress upon the govt of China to divest from coal

3. The deCOALonize campaign and partners reached out to the Chinese Embassy and had a chat with Ambassador Wu Peng who assured us that they were not imposing the project on the people of Lamu but were there because Kenyans wanted this project. He assured us that if we had proof that Kenyans were opposed to this project, they would not go forward with it.

Lamu is a paradise, we encourage you to visit for the holidays when lock-down is lifted. Please sign the petition

We, therefore, kindly request that you click on this link and sign the petition and stand in solidarity with the Lamu community. By signing this petition, you give us another opportunity to go back and show the Ambassador that Kenyans want them to invest in renewable energy and not a coal plant.

deCOALonize members, Gino (left), Samia (middle), and Rukiya (right) during the global climate strike march September 2019

4. In September, we joined the Global Climate Strike movement led by the youth around the world. We joined the young people in Kenya on the streets of Nairobi as they called on the adults to be more responsible with their future and take tangible actions to mitigating climate change. We plan on taking part in this year’s global strike and would be happy to work with you to help our teenagers and youths make their voices clearer. You can read about last year’s strike here.

5. News on coal around the world

6. Action items
- Please sign petition
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and share our tweets, posts and videos
- Share your picture with us and a statement of support and we’ll share on social media — share Twitter handle if on Twitter to tag you. You can share this via social media or email




Coal in Kenya

Compiled research and news about ongoing attempts to develop a coal industry in Kenya. #deCOALonize