Move on, Kenya, the coalition of the willing is not working

Negotiations on the oil pipeline with President Museveni is really a waste of time.

Friday March 25 2016

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I think President Uhuru Kenyatta is at risk of being taken on a run around by a very experienced and cunning African dictator, Mr Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Museveni, together with Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, had this “coalition of the willing” which was planning big infrastructure projects.

Among them was an oil refinery in western Uganda, a pipeline to Lamu through Turkana, and the standard gauge railway to Mombasa through the Southern Corridor.

By the way, joint regional infrastructure projects - railways, roads, ports etc - make sense from an integration and trade point of view.

I cannot think of anything more useful, except common defence, for integrating countries to do together.

Ideally, they should be centrally planned with the participation of all members. But a few members can have side deals too, so long as there is not too much aggressive competition to upset things.


Tanzania has always been a little more reluctant an East African than the other partners.

It is, therefore, not completely surprising that it was isolated in that so-called coalition and even moved ahead to launch its own arrangement with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I am not surprised that Tanzania has made a dramatic return and upset the Kenyan apple cart.

My own guess is that the Tanzanian pipeline is a done deal and all these negotiations with Mr Museveni, who is behaving like a very beautiful but very indecisive bride, is really a waste of time.

My own take is that Kenya really has no choice but to build a pipeline to evacuate the oil in the Lokichar Basin and now in the Kerio Valley, whether the other countries in the region want to participate or not.


Secondly, the Northern Development Corridor is of utmost strategic and security importance for Kenya.

It is a means for economically opening up and bringing more firmly under government control the wild northern regions which constitute more than half of the country. These national goals are not shared by our neighbours.

South Sudan, quite apart from being belligerent to do business with, is also a complicated ally to cultivate.

Sudan, for principally economic reasons, has to maintain some kind of participation in South Sudan’s oil industry, even if it is just controlling the means of exporting it, and is quite likely willing to be aggressive about it.

Ethiopia has planned and will build its own pipeline to Djibouti.

In the circumstances, I think the government can best use its energy going ahead with its own project rather than on a charm offensive against a man who is incredibly difficult to charm.

The pipeline costs Sh340 billion, which is a lot of money and which is not completely inaccessible to the government if it is organised.

What has to be managed are these expectations that the port and pipeline will be built and ready for use by 2018.

I would say: Proceed with the other regional projects, if they still make sense.

And since Lapsset does not make sense for Mr Museveni, let him have a pipeline on a route that he is happy with.

In the final analysis, Kenya’s interests might be better served by finding Sh340 billion than by allowing Mr Museveni too much leverage in its affairs.


Orange Democratic Party Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo was on NTV on Tuesday morning and ferociously objected to, among others, Maj General Mohammed Hussein Ali being referred to as a veteran.

“Veterans of what?” he asked with angry contempt.

If Mr Midiwo will allow me, I probably might be able to help. Gen Ali is a retired officer of the Kenya Army, a former commander of the Western Brigade of the Kenya Army Paratrooper Battalion as well as a former commander of the Air Cavalry.

In other words, on top of having been the Commissioner of Police, he is also a general officer of the armed forces of the Republic of Kenya and a special forces pilot to boot.

He has also done other things, such as being a military diplomat and most probably a spook.


Gen Ali is a soldier who has put his life on the line for this country. It makes me very angry that a politician who also claims to be a leader, however limited his talents, can deny the service of a Kenyan officer merely because of political differences.

Gen Ali is hated in ODM because of the crackdown in 2007 in which protesters were shot.

Mr Midiwo exemplifies the kind of politics I hate: parochial, irrationally partisan, an aridity of statesmanship, a drought of intellectual generosity, mean, loud, and always, always in your face.

Gen Ali is a veteran, Mr Midiwo. He served his country. You sir, served yourself and your party leader.   

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