, BERLIN, Germany, Apr 9 – President Uhuru Kenyatta says the Lamu Port – Southern Sudan – Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project will move forward whether or not Uganda opts to have its oil pass through Kenya’s northern corridor.
President Kenyatta said construction of the Lamu Port had already commenced and the other projects would move forward even as negotiations continued on the best route for the piping of Uganda’s crude to the Indian Ocean for export.
“LAPSSET project is continuing one way or another,” he told Kenyan journalists at a press briefing before departing Berlin on Friday.
The LAPSSET vision is to have an oil pipeline connect the Lamu Port to Kenya’s oil fields in the Turkana Basin, Uganda’s oil fields at Lake Albert’s Basin and the South Sudan oil fields. “It will readily avail crude oil as well as refined petroleum products to counties and towns such as Marsabit and Isiolo, thus reducing their reliance on Mombasa and Nairobi.
Secondly, fuel oil and diesel will benefit agro-industrial projects on the whole corridor, especially along the lower areas of the Tana River Basin,” the LAPSSET Authority website reads.
A spanner was however thrown into the works when it emerged that Uganda had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tanzania for the pipeline to pass through Tanga and not through the northern corridor; a diplomatic spat that led to the confiscation of Kenya’s Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter’s passport at the Tanga port.
The question of the pipeline also came up during President Kenyatta’s talks with French President Francois Hollande on Monday.
According to a source privy to the talks, President Kenyatta told Hollande that Total – a financier of the pipeline — will not be allowed to divide the region after it emerged that it was lobbying for the Tanga route.
“He said a company, no matter how big or small, would not be allowed to divide brothers,” the source reported.
Momar Nguer who assumes the position of Total’s President of Marketing Services later in April however, denied the charge.
He told Capital FM news that Total Uganda’s General Manager Adewale Fayemi — who was reported as saying that they preferred the Tanga route as it was more cost effective — was misquoted.
But even as President Kenyatta assured that LAPSSET is still on course, he came under criticism from opposition leader Raila Odinga who said, “This project is clearly in jeopardy; a combined result of Jubilee’s failing economic diplomacy and Kenya’s diminishing clout in the region.”