Is Lamu Port a jinxed project?

Ethiopia's PM Meles Zenawi (left), Kenya's president Mwai Kibaki (centre) and South Sudan president Salva Kiir (right) lay the foundation stone for the Lamu Port in 2012.
Ethiopia’s PM Meles Zenawi (left), Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki (centre) and South Sudan president Salva Kiir (right) lay the foundation stone for the Lamu Port in 2012. PHOTO/FILE
Construction of Lamu Port in the northern coast of Kenya appears to be a jinxed affair as so far nothing has moved since former President Mwai Kibaki launched the project nearly three years ago.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the port was held in March 2012, but the project is yet to take off partly due to lack of funds – with some observers saying the delay is a clear case of lack of political will.

In the June 2013, for example, the first budget of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government did not allocate any money for the port’s development, a move that raised eyebrows among members of the public.

The project, however, appeared set to move forward in August when President Kenyatta approved a Sh42 billion deal with the China Communications Construction Co. for the first phase of construction of three of the 32 berths planned for the port.

READ: Chinese firm wins Lamu Port tender

President Kenyatta said construction of the three berths would pave the way for the participation of the private sector in the establishment of the remaining 29 berths and other components of the project.

Four months down the line, land acquisition issues have come in the Lamu Port’s way, thereby further delaying the ambitious project.

Last week on Thursday, the High Court sitting in Malindi stopped construction of the port pending determination of a petition filed by landowners seeking to suspend the mega project.

The six landowners claim they own land where part of the port is to be constructed and are seeking to be provided with information that would shed light on the mode of compensating those displaced.

Judge Oscar Angote issued orders temporarily restraining State agencies from carrying on with work on any part of the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) project until the land compensation case is determined.

The case will be heard on December 8, 2014.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Read the latest issue of Construction Business Review. Flip through the pages of the paper real-time or download a copy to read offline. Sign up for a FREE subscription to get the paper delivered to your inbox every month.