Mombasa — The commissioning of the Lamu Port, a crucial facility in the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project, hangs in the balance as Kenya awaits the commitment of regional leaders to grace the event.
The port was set to be commissioned in December, but the date was later vacated in a bid to ensure regional Heads of State attend the commissioning.
Berth number 1 at the Lamu Port had been completed at the time. Berth 2 and 3 are scheduled to the completed this year.
Next month, a large ship operated by Mersk Shipping Line, will dock at Lamu Port, Macharia said.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Tuesday joined Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Meles Alam and South Sudan's Undersecretary in the Ministry of Transport Capt David Martin to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on LAPSSET, the CS remaining noncommittal on the commissioning of the project.
"Lamu Port is a regional project that was launched by the three head of states of Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan in March 2012. As a country, we cannot go back and commission it on our own. We want the same head of states to be present during commissioning," Macharia said, declining to give a date for the official opening.
Ambassador Alam allayed fears Ethiopia, having signed a peace deal with Eritrea in 2018, might backtrack from the LAPSSET project.
"However, our presence in this meeting testifies the full commitment the Ethiopian government has towards implementation of this project," said Alam.
Ethiopia has constructed over 500 kilometres of tarmac road from Moyale, which is part of the LAPSSET project, he said.
"We have also built industrial zones in the Southern parts of Ethiopia. We are now looking forward for the inauguration of the first berth of the Lamu Port," Alam said.
He said southern part of Ethiopia will depend on the Lamu Port.
African Union High Representative on Infrastructure Raila Odinga who witnessed the signing of the MoU by representatives of the three governments said the projects was crucial to spurring trade and economic growth in the region and as such could not be stopped.
"A two-day meeting of technical committee was held here in Mombasa. It was convened under the auspice of Africa Union and it was basically to give this project (LAPSSET) the impetus that it can be implemented quickly," Odinga who spoke during the signing ceremony at Whitesands Hotel Mombasa said.
LAPSSET was launched on March 2, 2012 by the then Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir.
Odinga said the LAPSSET was in June 2015 endorsed as a Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) Project during the AU Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He said Phase II of the project will be a road network connecting East Africa to West Africa.
"The East West Trans-Continental Beltway, which is connecting Lamu Port to Douala/Kribi (Cameroon) seaports via Juba and Bangui, is a continental project that will help East Africa trade with West Africa," said Odinga.
South Sudan's Undersecretary in the Ministry of Transport said they are highly committed in the Lapsset project.
In the five-page MoU signed by Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, the countries made nine resolutions.
Among the resolutions, the three states agreed to initiate dialogue between LAPSSET footprint States towards a shared approach and support establishment of an umbrella body to coordinate the implementation of the corridor.