Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has moved to clarify the agreement Kenya signed with Ethiopia following confusing statements that the two countries agreed to construct an oil pipeline.
Ms Mohamed, who is in Kigali for an AU meeting, told the Nation on Wednesday there were no specifics in the agreement about an oil pipeline, but added that there was a memorandum of understanding on the entire energy sector.
“Kenya and Ethiopia signed a Memoranda of Understanding in five key areas of cooperation, among them cooperation in the oil and gas sector.
“The two countries expressed a desire to advance the mutual benefit that the parties can draw by cooperating in the oil and gas sector,” she said.
The MoU, she argued, is a document of intent signalling that discussions have started between the parties concerned.
It is this document of intent that sets the basis for negotiations but it is not a legally binding contract and any party can pull out.
Ms Mohamed was responding to reports that Ethiopian minister for Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas Tolossa Shagi had told a local newspaper that the two countries had not signed an agreement on the pipeline despite an announcement by State House.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Nairobi, a set of MoUs were signed as part of joint infrastructure projects to integrate the region under the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor.
The State House communication team announced a deal had been struck to construct the pipeline and went ahead to specify the routes.
“Kenya & Ethiopia strike deal on oil pipeline linking Nakuru-Isiolo-Moyale-Hawassa-Addis&Lamu-Isiolo-Moyale- Hawassa,” declared a tweet from the Presidency.
“The two leaders witnessed the signing of bilateral agreements including a pact on the oil pipeline that will run from Lamu to Addis Ababa under the Lapsset project,” a statement from State House further said.
Mr Shagi, who signed the deal with Energy CS Charles Keter, clarified that only a commitment to assess the pipeline’s feasibility had been signed, not the agreement its construction.
On Wednesday, Ms Mohamed said the MoU was to supplement the existing of cooperation between the countries in electricity and a “desire to further strengthen the ties in the fields of energy.”
“Under the MOU the two countries will exchange information and ideas on oil and gas laws, policies, institutional framework, agreements, and other regulatory framework.
“The parties will encourage advancement of technology, skill transfer and research and also identify potential joint projects between the two countries and third parties in the areas of petrochemical products and gas derivatives,” she said.
This will include exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas, and construction and maintenance of infrastructure related to oil and gas and how to use technology in oil and gas, she explained.