Kenya Militant Attacks Halt Lamu Port Production

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Written by Makula Dunbar

Written by Drazen Jorgic | From Reuters Africa

The latest in a string of militant attacks on Kenya’s coast has dealt a fresh blow to the economy, but the threat this time goes beyond the tourist trade to an ambitious $25.5 billion port and transport scheme next to the historic town of Lamu.

Lamu residents, often working in tourism like others along Kenya’s palm-fringed coastline, have seen visitors flee with each assault, growing used to empty alleyways that once bustled with visitors and idle dhows awaiting clients on the waterfront.

But, till now, most attacks targeted Mombasa, 240 km (150 miles) south. This week gunmen hit closer to Lamu, striking twice in 24 hours around Mpeketoni town just 30 km (20 miles) from the 14th century Arab trading post. About 65 people died.

“Our future hinges on getting our port,” said Munawar Abdalla, 36, a local mason crafting ornate chairs styled with ebony and camel bone. “But if there’s no peace here how can the Lamu port work out. I’m very worried.”

Lamu is at the heart of a grand scheme that aims to connect new oil fields of Uganda and Kenya, and possibly the wells of South Sudan, by pipeline to the Indian Ocean. It also aims to link land-locked Ethiopia, an emerging economic power, to a brand new container port along a planned north Kenyan highway.

Critics have always said raising $25.5 billion for a 32-berth port, new roads and other infrastructure by 2030 was optimistic at the best of times. But attacks on Lamu’s doorstep make the tough task of raising financing an even harder sell.

It may force plans to be stripped back, reducing it to a pipeline and oil terminal to deal with crude flows from Uganda and Kenya that may reach 500,000 barrels per day in a few years.

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