Nairobi — The government launched the construction of a massive port, railway and refinery in Lamu with calls to sceptical locals to support the project it bills as the biggest ever in an African nation.
The government hopes the Sh2 trillion project will turn the country into a regional economic hub and propel it to become a middle-income economy in the next two decades.
The port is to be constructed with 32 berths and be connected to Ethiopia and oil-rich South Sudan by a super-highway, a railway and a pipeline to export Juba's crude.
The project is expected to be funded by regional financial institutions, governments and international lenders, with China believed to have a major stake.
However, Lamu residents protest that the huge port, although located some 10 kilometres from the UNESCO-listed Island, will impact on their livelihoods and accuse the government of ignoring their concerns
Local MPs Abu Chiaba and Fahim Twaha told their constituents who have been accusing the government of ignoring their concerns to stop protesting against the construction and expressed satisfaction with the government's commitment to compensate residents.
President Mwai Kibaki also took issue with NGOs rallying residents against the project further ordering that issuance of title deeds to residents of Lamu County and other parts of the coastal region to be fast-tracked.
"I want to assure you that my government will compensate those affected by the development of the corridor in accordance with the law. While developing Lamu port, all necessary precautions must be taken to ensure that there is minimal interference with the delicate ecosystem and cultural heritage," he said.
LAPSSET will address transport challenges facing the Northern, Eastern and Coastal parts of our country, and is expected to generate employment and act as a catalyst for productive economic activities in various sectors of the economy.
Minister for Transport Amos Kimunya said the project that has been at least 40 years in the making will spur industrialization along the corridor as well as facilitate technology transfer.
"Other proposed developments include the international airports in Isiolo, Lamu and Lokichoggio. Resort cities along the corridor and oil refineries in Lamu and even one in Isiolo," he revealed.
The Power Purchasing Agreement recently finalised between Kenya and Ethiopia will see up to 400 Megawatts of power imported from Ethiopia to boost construction of the Lamu Port.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the LAPSSET project comes at an opportune time and once complete will be a crucial segment on the Great Equatorial Land Bridge that will connect the Eastern and Western coasts.
"The significant economic gains we have registered in recent years have put a heavy strain on our existing infrastructure. If our region's high rates of economic growth are to continue unimpeded we must ensure our infrastructure development precedes the pace of our economic development," he said.