President Uhuru Kenyatta might use next week’s trip to France to try and soften the stand of Total SA over the Northern Pipeline route, which Kenya is seeking to clinch.
This came as Tanzania failed to join the Kenya-Uganda teams which inspected the Mombasa port before flying to Eldoret and Lokichar on a fact-finding mission about Nairobi’s commitment to complete the pipeline and the Lamu port in 2018.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade CS Amina Mohammed said even though the issue of Total’s position over the Northern Pipeline route from Hoima in Uganda through Lokichar to Lamu was not officially on the agenda, it could come up when President Kenyatta meets his host, President François Hollande.
“It (Total’s position on the Northern Pipeline) is not officially on the agenda” Ms Mohammed said on phone. “It is not on the table but, if it comes up, it will be discussed.”
From Monday to Wednesday, President Kenyatta will visit France, where he is expected to hold talks with his host, who is keen to strengthen bilateral relations, including economic cooperation, with Kenya.
The trip comes against a backdrop of Kenya’s sustained bid to convince Uganda to export its crude oil through the proposed Hoima-Lokichar-Lamu pipeline, citing the advantages over the Southern Route, which runs from Hoima to Tanga port in Tanzania.
UGANDA'S SWEET DEAL
The French oil firm has however opposed the Kenyan route, citing insecurity, huge costs arising from high land compensation figures and the unbuilt Lamu port as the reasons for favouring the Hoima-Tanga route.
Total has offered to finance the construction of the Sh400 billion ($4 billion) pipeline and sweetened the deal by offering to pay Uganda’s contribution of Sh380 billion ($3.8 billion) to the proposed refinery in Kampala.
It is instructive that Total was initially a French State-owned company going by the name Elf Aquitaine.
Total lobbied Uganda and Tanzania to sign a deal for the Sh400 billion pipeline at the Heads of State Summit in Arusha early last month.
That undid Kenya’s agreement with Uganda in 2013 to export its oil through Lamu port.
Stung by the Arusha deal, President Kenyatta invited his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni to a meeting last week where they agreed to inspect the works the government has carried out to ensure the pipeline and the Lamu port are ready by 2018.
The Kenyan team, led by Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, and the Ugandan one under Energy Minister Irene Muloni commenced the fact-finding mission last week with a tour of Lamu port. In Tanga, the Kenyan delegation was denied access to the port with Tanzanians demanding to join the mission.
However, Tuesday the Tanzanians failed to link up with the Kenyan and Ugandan teams on their tour of Mombasa port, Eldoret and Lokichar.
“They (Tanzanians) did not come,” said Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau. “I am informed that they were unable to get clearance on time from their government.”