Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda will present the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor as a single package to investors during this week’s US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC, USA.
Lapsset Corridor Development Authority chairman Francis Muthaura told The EastAfrican that, at a meeting at State House Nairobi on Thursday, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Salva Kiir of South Sudan and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn agreed to take a common position on Lapsset and package it for submission to American investors.
“Lapsset is a flagship project seeking to spur economic growth in the region and the leaders have agreed to package it as a regional initiative,” said Mr Muthaura.
The determination to attract investors to the $24 billion set of interlinked projects saw President Kenyatta risk litigation by revoking title deeds for nearly 500,000 acres of land in Lamu, the mouth of the proposed transport corridor stretching to Ethiopia and South Sudan. He also ordered state agencies to “commence investigations with a view to bringing to account all persons who were involved in this criminal enterprise without exception.”
The president said 22 companies had been irregularly allocated between 5,000 and 80,000 acres each between 2011 and 2012, when all land transactions had been stopped to allow for new agencies created by the Constitution to be established.
Wealthy speculators taking positions for huge compensation when the government starts acquiring land for the project are believed to have been behind the land grab.
The revocation exposes the government to litigation even as opinion is divided on whether the president acted within the law in cancelling the titles and ordering state agencies to investigate the perpetrators of the “criminal enterprise.”
The grabbing had encroached on parcels earmarked for the $24 billion Lapsset project for which Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan agreed to seek joint financing during the meeting of African leaders with President Barack Obama’s administration.
Local grievances over the alienation of the parcels, the president said, have been fuelling the insecurity that has seen more than 100 people killed along the coastal strip over the past month, scaring away investors from China and the US who had shown interest in developing some of the projects .
“This criminal conspiracy has dispossessed individuals and families living in this region of their land and opportunities for improving their wellbeing. It has also helped fuel the current insecurity being experienced in the region, and frustrated our efforts to build cohesion in the country,” the president said.
In revoking the titles, President Kenyatta sought to kill two birds with one stone — assuring investors of a conducive environment and tackling insecurity — not to mention the political mileage he is likely to gain by protecting community resources from private speculators, a key source of disquiet in most parts of Kenya.
The action appeared to spur immediate movement on Lapsset with the Kenya Ports Authority signing a $259.4 million (Ksh22.5 billion) contract in foreign currency and another Ksh19 billion contract in local currency with the China Communications Construction Company for building of the first three of the 32 berths of the Lamu port. Land earmarked for development of 13 berths was among that which had been irregularly acquired.
“This bold and timely step by the government is intended to create a platform for the engagement of the private sector in construction of the other 29 berths,” Mr Muthaura said at the contract signing.
Source URL: The East African
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