, NARIOBI, Kenya, Mar 1 – Kenya and Ethiopia on Thursday signed an agreement for the construction of a standard gauge railway line from Lamu in Kenya to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The deal was sealed at State House Nairobi and witnessed by President Mwai Kibaki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ahead of the much hyped launch of a major infrastructure project in Lamu on Friday.
“The two leaders expressed confidence that Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor (LAPPSET) project will, once realised, unlock trade and investment opportunities between the two countries. They welcomed the completion of negotiations on the bilateral agreement for the development, operations and management of the railway network,” Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said in a statement issued after bilateral talks.
The two also agreed to explore other areas that can facilitate trade opportunities for the two countries, “although the volume of trade between our two countries has registered steady growth over the years, there remains a huge unexploited potential.”
The two countries further re-affirmed their commitment to using the strengths offered through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to maximise their trade missions.
Zenawi and Kibaki also discussed the importance of clearly setting out the border lines to ensure Kenyans and Ethiopians respect them to avoid conflict likely to occur in trade.
They said it is necessary to reconfirm border lines and sensitise the communities residing along the common frontier to ensure they understand where they can go and where they can’t go under the trade agreements between Kenya and Ethiopia.
On trade prospects, Zenawi promised to consider Kenya’s proposal to develop a joint Lake Turkana and Rivers Omo and Daua Basins Commission to preserve the resources by ensuring they are not over exploited.
Another issue that featured in the discussion was security in regards to the joint operation in Somalia.
“They also welcomed the decision of the UN Security Council to expand the logistical package for AMISOM from 12,000 to 17,731 uniformed personnel and to include reimbursement of contingent owned equipment,” Wetangula said.
Zenawi who arrived in the country on Thursday is on Friday scheduled to join Kibaki and South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir at the launch of the LAPSSET project in Lamu.