A lot seems to be going for my brothers and sisters in Kenya. The region’s biggest economy, recently, lost two senior politicians in John Michuki and Njenga Karume. As their souls find rest, their absence and influence especially in the political dynamics of central Kenya will be felt.
The death of the two wealthy senior politicians has had to compete for news space with the shocking stories of women in Nyeri battering their husbands. The domestic violence in this region has not only been shocking but also a source of endless “Nyeri women” jokes on various social media sites.
Now forget the excitement in Western Kenya after Maranda High School topped the recently released Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and even becoming a trending topic on Twitter. Something much more significant was kicked off in the eastern part of the country.
LAPSSET is the name of a multibillion dollar project that was officially launched by President Mwai Kibaki, Southern Sudan’s Salva Kiir and Ethiopia’s PM Meles Zenawi. LAPSSET is and contraction of the Lamu Port and Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor. Yes, I know it is a mouthful but trust me the project is bigger than its name.
The project is supposed to be Kenya’s second transport corridor, the other being the Mombasa port and Mombasa – Uganda transport corridor. This mega project will be funded by the governments of Kenya, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia. The three countries will develop, operate and manage the project jointly.
Construction is expected to start very soon and will cover three phases running from 2012 to 2030. It is said to be one of the biggest projects on the continent estimated to cost about 25bn dollars. The main components of the project are a port, railways, roads and airport.
There will be a standard gauge railway line linking Juba to Lamu port as well as Addis Ababa to Lamu. The line will be capable of handling trains with speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour. By 2030, the railway line is expected to handle 30 daily trains to Juba and 52 to Addis Ababa.
The railway will be supplemented with highways linking Lamu to Addis and Juba. On top of the rail and roads there will also be an oil pipeline for the transportation of crude oil from Juba to Lamu where an oil refinery with the capacity to refine 120,000 barrels of oil a day, will be constructed.
As if that is not mindboggling enough, the towns of Lamu, Isiolo and Turkana will not only have new resort cities built but also airports to provide additional infrastructural support. To power all this, Kenya has already signed a deal with Ethiopia to supply electricity.
The Lamu port itself is expected to stretch a whole six kilometres and will be deeper than Mombasa. Lamu will be 18 meters deep compared to Mombasa which is 12 meters deep. Lamu will clearly not be the same again once this project is completed but so will the East African region and Community.
For a long time, observers of the EAC have loved to argue that Tanzania’s alleged foot-dragging on EAC matters is because their heart is more towards the SADC region than the EAC. Now that Kenya has unveiled this massive project aimed at milking business prospects from Southern Sudan and Ethiopia, should the rest of the EAC worry that Kibaki’s people are also going to be like Tanzania on EAC matters?
During the ground breaking ceremony, Pres. Salva Kiir of South Sudan pointed out that Sudan was not happy with such projects and had been bombing its oil fields recently. The message between the lines here is that Southern Sudan would love to join the EAC and of course Kenya will probably back they bid vigorously.
A long time ago, the British constructed a railway line from the port of Mombasa through Nairobi, the Northern Rift areas into Uganda all the way to Kasese and Pakwach via Jinja and Kampala. This metallic snake was an engine of development for many towns where it passed and can be considered one of the pillars of the initial integration efforts.
Considering what the LAPSSET transport corridor looks like on paper. It may not be insane to speculate that the ultra capitalist Kenyans will overtime develop a more northern outlook and thus ‘upset’ the direction of the EAC project. Over to you Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and of course Tanzania!