Expanding the frontiers one brick and motor at a time.
President Kenyatta could turn the mega, Sh1.5 trillion (approximately 171.63 billion U.S. dollars) Lamu Port-Southern Sudan–Ethiopia Transport project or (LAPSET), into his signature domestic, but more significantly, foreign policy achievements. The plank of the project are; a road network, a railway network, an oil pipeline network from South Sudan to Lamu, and airports that will be located at Lamu, Isiolo and Lokichogio. The railway network will run from Lamu to Isiolo from where one line will branch to Ethiopia and another one to South Sudan. At the macro level, this project will achieve duo intent, domestically; it will open the restive South Coast, Northern Kenya and Northern Rift Valley. These regions are the least developed regions in Kenya, with simmering discontent against the state ever present. The perennial cattle rustling as a result of government neglect has made the regions arguably one of the most armed in the country. By bringing the government services closer to the people without exploiting their natural resources will inoculate the center from any potential anti-government rebellion. Additionally, the project also hooks up these peripheries, the largest landmass of Kenya, to the market, and transforms it into the center. In terms of foreign policy calculus; the project will link Kenya with Sudan and Ethiopia- the largest market in the region, Ethiopia, which has 91 Million people.
Further, the discovery of oil and gas in Northern Kenya and Northern Rift Valley, the two marginalized regions, makes Kenyatta to kill two birds with one stone- bring the government services closer to the people, and using these natural resources for the country’s benefit. The bonus for enhancing a good relationship with Sudan and Ethiopia which shares the border with Northern Kenya and Northern Rift Valley is an added incentive.
But Kenya must be cognizance of the fact that all good foreign policy begins at home. Therefore, President Kenyatta should begin embarking on a master plan for how the natural resources from this region are utilized. The communities should form the core constituency in this discussion. Colonial government and all subsequent post-colonial governments have willfully neglected these regions arguing they contribute little to the national GDP. Kenyatta should ensure the people of these regions are consulted and placed at the center of benefitting from the resource found in their region. The last thing you will need is disenchanted people who will be again excluded from these ones in a life time to lift themselves from poverty. Their disenfranchisement will be pose significant security problem akin to what is going on in Niger Delta in Nigeria. Because of the porous border and prevailing security circumstances, these communities have armed themselves, failing to include them in sharing the gas and oil profit will only succeed in further alienating them, which will only increase more security headache for the administration. Because of porous borders, the communities here have been able to acquire arms, which makes is a commonsense approach to involve them in sharing of the resources.
Foreign policy involves employing a mix of a clear eyed realism and idealism, in both cases the stars have been aligned for Kenyatta. With an autonomous and seemingly competent cabinet in place, Kenyatta can focus his energy in foreign policy, thus placing his money where his mouth is.