Full Length Research Paper
This study argues that, although public participation is a mechanism of connection and collective struggle, its practice lacks strong operational foundation. A re-conceptualization of participation as a planning and social reform tool is expounded through examination of how project affected people in the Kenya Lamu Port project, voiced their participation concerns. Lamu Port is a key infrastructural project in the Lamu Port - South Sudan - Ethiopia Transport Corridor Project (LAPSSET). LAPSSET is one of the biggest and costliest projects in Africa. It suffered major completion delay and by November of 2021, only three of the 32 berths were functional. Four objectives were pursued: describe how the local people understand participatory communication, determine what people ‘voice’ their participatory concerns, expound how the local people voice their participation concerns and explain the challenges of participation. A mixed method approach was used where key informants and a sample of 385 residents were studied. Data were analyzed using descriptive techniques and thematic analyses. Key findings were that, it is not the quantity of participation that matters in safeguarding community and individual interests, but the quality and voicing strategies that are adopted by the participants. Similarly, not all communication and participation agenda by projects implementers are perceived as genuine and reflective of community’s’ interest. It is recommended that, people who fight for community rights should be recognized and empowered via mechanism such as legislations and regulations. Participation gives a community surveillance power on matters that affect it and is an encounter process.
Key words: Communication style, participatory communication, social influence, infrastructural project.
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