BY KALUME KAZUNGU | DAILY NATION
The Eritrea and Ethiopia peace agreement signed in July will not have any negative impact on the implementation and operationalization of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project.
This is according to Lapsset Corridor Development Authority (LCDA) Chief Executive Officer Silvester Kasuku who downplayed emerging fears that the peace deal which has now created a close working relationship between the two former rival countries will enable Ethiopia, a landlocked country, to have access to the port in Eritrea [Assab and Massawa], which is in addition to Djibouti.
Decades of Conflict
Critics have also argued that Ethiopia’s plans to work closely with Somalia in a move to establish a similar corridor shall put in doubt the Lapsset components that originally hoped to service the landlocked country.
In an exclusive interview with Nation yesterday, Mr. Kasuku insisted that the peace deal between the two countries will have no impact on the Sh 2.5trillion project since it will handle the entire southern Ethiopia which has about 50 million people.
Mr. Kasuku also reiterated that other ports like Djibouti and Eritrea handle North of Addis Ababa and therefore the relevancy of the Lapsset components even after the peace agreement is still intact.
Following decades of conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the latter was forced to heavily rely on Djibouti and before the peace deal was signed, it hoped that Lamu would give it access to another port, especially to serve its southern regions.
The agreement now lays out a new era of cooperation between the former enemies, including re-establishing telecommunication and transport links, reopening embassies and resolving a border dispute that has locked them in conflict since the late 1990s.
But the Lapsset CEO said all these will have no negative implications on the project. “We have already discussed that in length including meeting Ethiopian Marine Authority officials in a bid to secure continued support for Lapsset. People should beware that Lamu Port will strategically be located to service southern Ethiopia even when the country has access to Eritrean and Djiboutian ports. The two ports will actively handle North of Addis Ababa,” said Mr. Kasuku.
In an earlier statement, LCDA announced that Ethiopia and Kenya had already signed bilateral arrangements regarding Lapsset’s oil pipeline, road connections, railways, and port.
“Southern Ethiopia and the Hawassa Industrial Park will be served by these infrastructure projects. Our project will be in overdrive,” said the authority.
The project’s plan includes a 32-berth port, transportation hubs for rail, highway and international airports in Lamu, Isiolo and Lodwar, an oil pipeline from South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia to Lamu port, an oil refinery and three resort cities in Isiolo, Lamu and Turkana.
Deepen Trade Ties
The integrated transport corridor is expected to open up the northern parts of Kenya where the government has until now invested little in infrastructure.
It is also expected to link Kenya with Ethiopia and South Sudan, with hopes of deepening trade among the three countries.
So far, the construction of the first three deep-sea berths in Kililana, Lamu West, is on the course and 55 percent complete.
The three berths cost the government Sh48 billion which includes their construction plus other activities such as preparation of the turning bay, dredging, and reclamation work as well as navigation of sea waves. “The first berth out of the three is 72 percent complete and we expect it to be ready by June 2019. The other two are set to be complete by 2020,” said Mr. Kasuku.