Ethiopian PM visit to Kenya and the launching of Lamu Port project

The weekly press release of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the following summary regarding Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s visit to Kenya and the launching of Lamu Port to South Sudan and Ethiopia (LAPSSET).

Here is the text of the twofold article on “Prime Minister Meles’ state visit to Kenya” and “the launching of LAPSSET”.

Prime Minister Meles’ State Visit to Kenya…..

Prime Minister Meles paid his first state visit to Kenya on Thursday and Friday last week accompanied by senior government officials. In addition to official talks on bilateral and regional issues with President Mwai Kibaki, the two leaders, together with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, launched the 23 billion dollar project to build a port and oil refinery at Lamu and create the oil pipeline, railway and motorway to link Lamu Port to South Sudan and Ethiopia (LAPSSET).

In his opening remarks at their bilateral discussions, President Kibaki noted that Kenya and Ethiopia continued to make the best use of the Joint Ministerial Commission referring to the importance of border management along the two countries’1000 kilometer border. He said the long-standing Visa Abolition Agreement had contributed significantly to consolidating bilateral relations but it was important to update this to take account of increasing criminal sophistication. The two countries needed to work closely together on conservation and exploitation of water resources and he looked forward to Ethiopia’s response to the suggested commission on Lake Turkana and the Omo and Daua rivers. He spoke of the massive LAPSSET project and the need to work together towards self-sufficiency in electricity and energy. He welcomed the Power Purchase Agreement with Ethiopia under which Kenya will obtain up to 400MW annually. Kenya supported the search for peace and stability in Sudan and the need for Somali leaders to resolve their disputes peacefully. He commended Prime Minister Meles’ efforts as chair of the AU Committee on Climate Change. President Kibaki was pleased that Prime Minister Meles would be representing the region on the committee of 8 on the AU election process and he hoped Ethiopia would support the re-election of Mr. Erastus Mwencha as deputy chairperson of the AU Commission.     

In his response, Prime Minister Meles noted that Kenya was one of Ethiopia’s major economic partners and a major ally in the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region. Ethiopia and Kenya had complimentary national development priorities, and similar areas of mutual concern in Somalia and Sudan. He reiterated Ethiopia’s commitment to the ongoing processes in Sudan and Somalia in support of peace and stability. He agreed with President Kibaki on the importance of the Joint Ministerial Commission, revived last year after a seven year hiatus, and of the annual Joint Border Commission meetings. Ethiopia appreciated the commitment of Kenya not to allow terrorist organizations like the ONLF or the OLF to operate out of Kenya, and the decision of Kenya to categorize the OLF as an organized criminal group. It was ready to undertake a comprehensive study of the Omo basin to provide the basis for full and informed discussion. Prime Minister Meles mentioned the various bilateral agreements now being implemented including electric power purchase, joint investment promotion and avoidance of double taxation. He referred to LAPSSET as a milestone in the history of the sub-region.

In the joint communiqué issued after the bilateral talks, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Meles noted that Kenya and Ethiopia have a functional Joint Ministerial Commission which made decisions on a wide range of issues at its last session, the 33rd, in May-June last year. The relevant agencies must now ensure timely implementation of these decisions. Trade between Ethiopia and Kenya has registered steady growth but they agreed there was still a huge unexploited potential. The two leaders agreed to work closely within the framework of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to improve movement of goods and services. They expressed confidence that LAPSSET will unlock trade and investment opportunities on a significant scale. They welcomed the bilateral agreement for the development, operation and management of a railway linking Lamu to Addis Ababa and its signing by the Kenyan and Ethiopian Ministers of Transport.

The two leaders commended the Joint Border Commissioners/Administrators for their work along the border and underlined the importance of keeping close contact to exchange information and facilitate legal trading activities. The Joint Ministerial Commission had agreed to establish technical teams to inspect boundary beacons in order to restore those destroyed or removed. Kenya has organised its technical team; Ethiopia will do so shortly. Kenya has also decided to open seven additional border posts in Toudonyang, Markamari, Rhamu, Banya Fort, Dukana and Furore in order facilitate trade and curtail human trafficking, smuggling and other cross-border crimes. Prime Minister Meles said Ethiopia would now consider doing the same. 

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Meles agreed on the importance of working together on conservation and exploitation of shared water resources. Kenya has proposed a Cooperative Framework Agreement to establish a Joint Lake Turkana and Rivers Omo and Daua Basin Commission. Prime Minister Meles said Ethiopia would respond after a study of the two basins had been completed. 

The two leaders reviewed the situation in Somalia and welcomed the growing interest of the international community as shown by the London Conference. They welcomed the UN Security Council’s decision to increase the size of AMISOM, noting this would allow deployment into liberated areas and facilitate the setting up of administrative systems by the TFG and the provision of humanitarian support as well as the return of internally displaced people and refugees. They emphasized that the destiny of Somalia always rests in the hands of Somalis themselves and they challenged Somali leaders to reciprocate the efforts being made regionally and internationally. 

During his visit, Prime Minister Meles also spoke to Kenyan business leaders on the two countries bilateral trade and the investment opportunities of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government, he said, was ready to facilitate easy access to land, cheap electricity and train manpower for Kenyan investors interested to invest in manufacturing sectors in Ethiopia. Responding to questions, Prime Minister Meles said the government was going to gradually lift controls on sectors currently not open to foreign investors. He said this needed to be gradual as Ethiopia’s private sector remained feeble and needed to be protected from tough competition from foreign companies. The priority remained the development of the country.  Meles also told the audience that Ethiopia’s adoption of a mix of policies had enabled the government to make headway in the energy sector, making the country a competitive destination for business.

….and the launching of LAPSSET

On the second day of his state visit to Kenya, Prime Minister Meles attended the formal inauguration of the port of Lamu by President Kibaki. President Salva Kiir of South Sudan was also present. The building of the new port at Lamu will be a key component in the LAPSSET Corridor, the linking of Lamu Port to South Sudan and Ethiopia with an oil pipeline, railway and motorway. In total, this 23 billion dollar project envisages 1,600 kilometers of railway and 1,700 of new highways and three international airports as well as the new port of Lamu, and an oil pipeline and refinery. At the groundbreaking ceremony when the three leaders unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official start of the building work, President Kibaki said he had no doubt that “this day will go down in history as one of the defining moments, when we made a major stride to connect our people to the many socio-economic opportunities that lie ahead.”

The project would provide “the landlocked countries of our region with a direct and dependable route to the sea”, he noted, and help connect “the entire east and central Africa region to international markets.” The project could be expected to play a critical role in enhancing the economic livelihood of over 167 million people in the region, and it would also generate massive employment opportunities, and the President urged the residents of Lamu and Kenyans at large to support the project. He said all necessary precautions would be taken to ensure minimal interference with the ecosystem and adequate expertise and technology would be deployed to ensure environmental sustainability. President Kibaki thanked a number of organizations for their support including the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Africa Union. He singled out China for being extremely supportive of the project. 

Prime Minister Meles said Ethiopia looked forward to extending its cooperation to make sure the project came to full fruition. He called the launch an historic occasion and expressed optimism that it would propel the collective development of Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan forward. LAPSSET, he said, would add credence to Kenya’s position as a gateway to East and Central Africa. It would link the economies of the three states and also bring their peoples together. President Kiir congratulated President Kibaki and the people of Kenya for the realization of a dream to spur regional economic integration. It would create economic opportunities and enhance national and regional stability. For South Sudan, he said, “it is a vision whereby in the future you will be able to board people and freight cargo in the morning in Juba and be in Lamu that same afternoon.”


Source: A Week in the Horn – March 9, 2012 issue

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