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
NameKaro Airstrip, Kenya
ProvinceMandera East
SiteKaro, Khalalio ward
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional 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 DetailsA 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]

Ongoing works at the airport site stalled in July 2016 when the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Committee (EACC) began investigations into alleged irregularities in award of the tender, requesting original evaluation reports (preliminary, technical and financial) as well as the original tender documents submitted by bidders.[10] KAA cancelled award of the airport construction tender to SEO & Sons in October 2016, following due diligence which revealed that the firm had used forged documents to claim that it had carried out other major projects on behalf of the Kenya National highways Authority (KeNHA). SEO & Sons moved to court seeking a High Court ruling to overturn the decision, saying that KAA had no authority to carry out due diligence after entering into the contract.[11] On 21st March 2018 an order of certorati (process for seeking a judicial review) regarding the termination of the award of the airport construction contract to SEO & Sons and stoppage of site activities was issued by the Kenyan High Court.[12]
Level of Investment (in USD)5,930,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesSEO 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 actorsMandera County

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) - http://www.eacc.go.ke/

Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) - http://ppra.go.ke/pparb/
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, 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
OtherHealth problems caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economic 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
OtherInter-clan conflict

Loss of access to grazing land for pastoralists

Loss of access to water for pastoralists
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Relocation of airport site from Libehia to Wargadud then to Karo
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

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

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

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

[1] Ali Roba blames selfish traders, clan politics for failed airport projects, Daily Nation, 17 March 2019
[click to view]

[click to view]

[6] Governor Roba’s Statement on Karo Airstrip Refuted, NFD Dispatch, 16 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]

[click to view]

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

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

Media Links

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

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

Other Documents

Mandera residents protest against the airport Elders take to the street in protest against construction of an airport in Mandera county, 27 February 2019. Photo: Radio Midnimo https://midnimofm.com/uproar-as-elders-counter-airport-construction/
[click to view]

Mandera East constituency map Mandera East constituency map of County assembly wards, showing the town of Karo in the Kalaliyo ward. Source: https://informationcradle.com/kenya/mandera-east-constituency/
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorRose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update02/04/2019