Isiolo Airport, Kenya

Expansion of Isiolo Airport failed to uphold human rights to information, housing, employment, education and provision of water. Land acquisition and resettlement were chaotic and some residents had yet to be compensated after completion of the project


Land acquisition for upgrade and expansion of Isiolo Airport from a small airstrip to an international airport commenced in 2004 when Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) wrote to Isiolo County Council requesting that land be set aside for the project. The process of determining which people were the rightful owners of the land and therefore legally entitled to  compensation was fraught with difficulties. New Part Development Plans (PDPs) were issued, which participants of focus group discussions conducted by the Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) said undermined security of tenure because people who wanted to re-allocate, or grab, land would be issued with a new PDP. This resulted in double or triple issuance of allotment letters over the same parcel of land.

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Basic Data
NameIsiolo Airport, Kenya
ProvinceIsiolo County and Meru County
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIsiolo Airport is developed and operated by Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), a government-owned enterprise. The 329.7 hectare site is situated on the border between Isiolo County and Meru County. Upgrade and expansion of the facility from a small airstrip to an international airport to accommodate heavy commercial aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 was completed in July 2017. Construction if Phase 1 of the upgrade began in 2011 and the airport runway, lengthened from 1.5 kilometers to 2.5 kilometers, opened in 2013. Ground-breaking for a new terminal meeting international standards took place in February 2013 and works were completed in February 2016. Phase 3 included an apron and access roads, completed in March 2016. The government of Kenya commissioned Isiolo Airport in July 2017.[6] The programme to upgrade and expand Isiolo Airport cost USD27 million. The airport has sufficient capacity to handle 350,000 passengers annually. But in April 2018, eight months after it was opened, Isiolo Airport was underultilized, operating at a small fraction of its capacity with a mere four flights per week.[7]
Project Area (in hectares)327.9 hectares
Level of Investment (in USD)USD 27,000,000
Start Date12/2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesKenya Airports Authority (KAA) from Kenya - Developer and operator of Isiolo Airport
Northern Construction Company from Kenya - Awarded contract to build new passenger terminal during phase two of Isiolo Airport upgrade and expansion project, completed February 2016
Relevant government actorsIsiolo County Council

Meru County Council

Government of Kenya
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersHakijamii -

Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) -
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Global warming, Noise pollution, Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
OtherReduced water supply due to construction of water supply to the airport
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Other Health impacts
OtherIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherInterference in education due to: restricted access to a school within the airport fence, noise from aircraft and construction works impairing concentration

Lack of jobs for local people at the airport
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Land demarcation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.There were environmental justice failures as some residents were not compensated by the time the expanded airport commenced operations.
Sources and Materials

[1] Robert Kibugi, Ibrahim Mwathane and Mwenda Makathimo, Large Scale Land Acquisitions for Investment in Kenya: Is the participation, and benefits of affected local communities meaningful, and equitable? A case study of the situation in Lamu, Isiolo and Siaya Counties., Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI), 2016
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[5] Conflict over water that could delay opening of Isiolo International Airport, Standard Kenya, 22 May 2016
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[2] Isiolo International Airport set to be commissioned soon but compensation woes still far from over, Radio Shahidi, 7 November 2016
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[4] Concerns over safety at Isiolo airport as school yet to be relocated, Daily Nation, 10 May 2016
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[6] Isiolo International Airport, Airport Technology
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[7] Isiolo airport underutilised, KAA boss tells House team, Daily Nation, 24 April 2018
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Media Links

Isiolo airport evictees demand compensation, Kenya Citizen TV, 16 May 2017 ( A man speaks in English at 0.48)
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Other Documents

Accessing school via a hole in the fence Pupils and teachers cut a hole in the Isiolo Airport fence to access K K Nkengecia Primary School. Source: Source: Vivian Jebet | Nation Media Group
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Residents left without water In May 2016 a project to supply water to Isiolo Airport left thousands of residents without water. Source: Standard Kenya
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Isiolo Airport runway Source: CAPITALBUSINESS
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K K Nkengecia Primary School A primary school just 500 meters from the runway had yet to be relocated as Isiolo Airport prepared to commence operations in 2016. Source: Vivian Jebet | Nation Media Group
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Isiolo Airport upgraded and expanded Source: Kenya Airports Authority (KAA)
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Construction of Isiolo Airport Isiolo Airport has been expanded from a small airstrip to an international airport with a 2.5km runway. Source:
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Meta Information
ContributorRose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update08/01/2019