Designing and Building in Central and East Africa

Visioning the Modern: The Challenges and Risks Surrounding Kenya’s Proposed Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor



.                 1. The World is Coming

.                 2. Lines of Territory Upon Strata of History

.                 3. Visioning

.                 4. Shifting Alliances

.                 5. Entangled Priorities

.                 6. Reliance: South Sudan

.                 7. The Kenyan Frontier

.                 8. Lamu – A City on the Edge

.                 9. East African Resolve

.                 10. References


“The world is coming…”

– Deputy Secretary of the Kililana Farmers Association
Lamu Town, April 2015


.     The Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor is the largest project currently being planned in the East Africa region. With an estimated budget of $23 Billion, this decade-long process of regional transformation is expected to create numerous opportunities for international investment, while coaxing regional social and political fissures to the surface of this contested landscape.

The first step of the project (currently underway) will be to transform the Kenyan fishing city of Lamu into an enormous port, accommodating as many as 32 oil tankers, supporting infrastructure, and projects of urban expansion. This phase is expected to boost the city’s population from 100,000 to 1,000,000 within a matter of years. The second phase will see the construction of a road and railway line from Lamu through Kenya and into Ethiopia and South Sudan. Previous iterations of this project saw avenues into neighboring Uganda, and speculated an extension into the Central African Republic. The final stage will be the installation of a pipeline from the oil fields of Northern South Sudan and Kenya’s Lokichar oil basin, back through Kenya, to Ethiopia, and to Lamu (Herbert).

Considerations at the Kenyan regional and local levels have grown in ambition with the size of the corridor to incorporate airstrips, resort cities, water systems, agricultural initiatives, and projects of civic infrastructure. Some discussions have begun regarding integration with the Standard Gauge Railway project; connecting Nairobi with Mombasa and nearly completed by the Chinese. Funding for the LAPSSET Corridor project is still in speculation. This project has come to dominate Kenyan local and regional planning discussions, Kenya’s foreign policy priorities, and makes up a substantial portion of the nationally acclaimed Vision 2030.

Throughout East Africa and across Kenya, this project represents a shift in regional prioritization from past efforts to simply control and contain the vast ‘uncharted hinterlands’ on the periphery, to a future in which these landscapes are transformed. Tribalism, territorialization, frontierism, cultural prioritization and anticipated economic displacement put this already contentious initiative in a constant state of flux. In order for the project to succeed however, the complex – yet delicate – framework of international agreements and political hierarchies must remain in place.

lines of territory upon strata of history

“The railway is the beginning of all history of Kenya… and it is the railway which created Kenya as a colony of the crown.”
 – Sir Edward Grigg, Governor of Kenya, 1928


.     The history of the East African region, dating back to pre-history, consists of a diverse and heterogeneous mixture of cultures, religions and models of habitation.  In the 1870’s however, foreign powers from Europe began to lay claim upon vast tracts of East African land, homogenizing diverse aggregations of tribes, communities, and identities into the territorial constructs of European colonialist governance. The emergent colonializing strategies for development of these claimed regions were established upon plans for the economic benefit of the colonizing nations. Though the boundaries and limits of territory were established in agreement between European powers, few of the development initiatives were coordinated – reflecting a euro-centric competition that further fragmented the East African landscape.

One of the most well-known infrastructure projects from the era is the British financed Kenya-Uganda railway – the so called ‘Lunatic Express’.  Remembered for the logistical challenges of construction that were presented by the difficult and ‘wild’ Kenyan landscape, the turn-of-the-century railway was established as a single line corridor from the African coast to the interior of the African continent. Similar yet independent projects of varying standards were built by the Germans in Tanzania and the French in Ethiopia. As a wave of independence swept across the African continent in the mid-20th century however, the newly recognized nation-states were left with an assemblage of fragmented islands of infrastructure (Graham, 40), limiting both regional integration of markets and cultural communication. The vast regions of land in between the developed ‘modern’ corridors remained for decades as contained, yet neglected ‘hinterlands’. To date, this remanence of colonialist development strategy has meant that the cost of inland transportation throughout East Africa remains the highest in the world (UNHabitat, 155).

Seeking to improve their capacity for economic growth and regional connectivity within the community, the governments of East Africa have initiated standardized reconstructions of their national railway infrastructures. With nearly completed projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda; and contracts for construction recently awarded in Tanzania and Rwanda (Templeton), the East African community is poised for the first time to establish an interconnected, cross-cultural railway transportation network. These monumental achievements have begun to give rise to grand, ambitious visions of further economic integration, development, and modernization.


“The commencement of this project reinforces the Government’s resolve to make infrastructure a key facilitator of our social and economic development. It is a major milestone in delivering the LAPSSET corridor programme as well as achieving Kenya’s Vision 2030,”
 – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Speaking of the New Standard Gauge Railway, August 2014


.     The nationalist construct of Vision 2030 lays out a future in which Kenya will have been transformed “into a newly industrializing middle-income country providing high quality life to all its citizens by the year 2030.” Through media campaigns that promote ‘The Kenya We Want…” alongside images of impressive seaside resort cities and sleek transportation infrastructure, references to high modernist ideals can be seen within the country’s relentless pursuit towards a technological sublime (Graham, 45).

Described as neo-liberal in substance by economists (Mosely, 457), Kenya’s aspirations are echoed in Uganda’s Vision 2040, Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan, and Tanzania’s Vision 2025. It is only in the past 10 years has this trend of longer term planning and ‘visioning’ has taken hold in East Africa. As these nations have witnessed from afar the incredible economic growth in South East Asia and the alluring transformations of cities like Dubai, the strategic direction of East African countries has begun to shift away from the aid-based model presented by the west, to one of foreign direct investment that allows for a scale of planning that involves massive infrastructural upgrades, economic deregulation, and seeks a new era of interconnection and extension (Graham, 41).

Vision 2030 and the flagship LAPSSET project will cut cross the Northern Kenyan territories, drawing static lines of fluid commerce across the vast, semi-arid landscape. As Jason Mosley, a research associate at the Oxford University African Studies Centre points out, this ‘visioning’ marks a reversal in approach on the part of national leadership, “as these frontier regions were formerly seen as unproductive and of little interest; now they are seen as the site of unexploited resources.” The ability to capitalize on such vast, untapped resources of territory however, will fall primarily to the national leadership and wealthy elite within the capital cities. Mosley carries on to clarify that “these plans, articulated and promulgated first at the center, have huge implications for the peoples and landscapes at the margins”(453), indicating that those who will benefit the most from these projects will be those who will sacrifice the least. With the majority of the length of the corridor passing through not only the poorest regions of the country but also across traditional pastoralist territories, these hard lines of development will only be helpful to those communities that drastically change their traditional way of life.

In Kenya, Mosley’s observations have already begun to register upon the semi-arid, former ‘hinterlands’ of the Northern Kenya. The importance of the other nations involved in the LAPSSET corridor project however, cannot be understated. While the economic potential of Kenya’s development is substantial, this progress is both reliant upon and a precursor to the extensions of the corridor into its neighboring countries. This coordination and inter-reliance was recently tested to a breaking point with Kenya’s Western neighbor, Uganda.

shifting alliances

“Africa is wealthy in natural resources; the problem is they are not optimally utilized.”
– Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, September, 2005


.     Venerated by the international community as ‘The Pearl of Africa’ for its incredibly bio-diversity, Uganda’s economic potential began to emerge in the 1990s and 2000s after decades of stalled and contracted growth. Even at a time when conflict was raging in Rwanda to the South and in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West, Uganda was able to maintain a remarkable average growth rate of approximately 7%. While some of the growth could perhaps be attributed to the conflicts themselves, Uganda’s geography and railway link with Nairobi facilitated a fruitful and essential connection to the international market for its main exports of coffee, tea and tobacco. Over the past 5 years however, Uganda’s growth rate has begun to decline to an average 4.5% per annum. Analysts project a resurgent growth in the coming months to 5.1% in 2018, and 5.6% in 2019 (World Bank); due primarily to accelerated development of energy resources and the construction of public infrastructures. These investments however will not be initiated under the LAPSSET partnership.

In the early stages of planning for the LAPSSET project, Uganda was an immediate and enthusiastic partner. Having recently announced the discovery of substantial oil deposits in September of 2009 in its Lake Albert Basin, the nation found itself sitting upon an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of oil (Tillow). These resources were ‘visioned’ not only to help support the growth of Uganda, but as an opportunity for Uganda to further connect with the global economy. With resource extraction and conveyance to the international market growing as a common goal among numerous members of the East African community, the economy of anticipation was ripe for large scale planning. It was this fortuitous discovery of oil that brought Uganda into initial discussions to craft the new and additional transport corridor into Northern Kenya. In 2013, the LAPSSET partnership of four interconnection nations was recognized, formalized and inaugurated.

As Kenya crafted detailed plans for resort cities, urban expansions, and infrastructural upgrades over the following years, Uganda’s economy began to slow, and the patience on the part of the Museveni administration began to wane. The increasing scale of Kenyan ambition along with the complexity of quadri-national agreements, slowly began to extend the project’s timeline. Most pressing however, was that foreign investments into the region were desperately needed in order to realize the project; and the financial successes of the project were hanging upon an extremely volatile, unpredictable, and potentially escalating conflict in South Sudan. Add to this a series of high profile terror attacks in Kenya and growing resistance to initial construction phases in coastal Lamu communities; the concerns in Uganda grew over the immediate viability of the LAPSSET project. In order to achieve and maintain the goals of its own Vision 2025, Uganda began to explore an alternate corridor that would export its newly found oil wealth through Rwanda and Tanzania.

While not part of the LAPPSET corridor framework, the nation of Tanzania has been no less ambitious in the scale of its long term regional and international pursuits. As recently as February of 2017, Tanzanian President Magufuli’s administration awarded the contract for construction of the nation’s contribution to the growing East African standard gauge railway network (Templeton). Coordinated with Rwanda and Burundi, the colonial era railways will be upgraded and ultimately unify a circle of commerce through the urban centers of Dar Es-Salaam, Bujumbura, Kigali, Kampala, Nairobi, and Mombasa. Internationally, the Tanzanian agenda has coalesced around the “Mwambani Economic Corridor”, which will connect the Tanzanian port of Tanga (currently under construction) with Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (TanzaniaInvest).

When Uganda began investigating an alternative alignment of its exports through Tanzania, not only was the project able to be incorporated in the logistical planning of an already established partnership, but the relative security of the more southern nation proved greater potential for the timely completion of an oil pipeline. In November of 2016, the two nations signed an agreement to rapidly design and construct the line through numerous concurrent contracts, fast-tracking the project in order to expedite Uganda’s oil extraction and export (Reuters).

Faced with the withdrawal of Uganda’s key partnership, President Kenyatta emphatically stated to journalists that “the LAPSSET project is continuing one way or another. As you know, we have already started. The Lamu port as we stand and talk here is already being constructed. It is moving ahead.”  With the number of partnering countries reduced from four to three, the value and importance of Kenya’s remaining partnerships have grown to be indispensable.  It is in Ethiopia however, that competing avenues of economic priority have established a complex and politically precarious partnership.

entangled priorities

“Whatever they say or do, [they] can’t stop us from the path of development we are taking.”
 – Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Jinka 2011


.     In October of 2016 the first trains began to move along the newly constructed Addis-Ababa – Djibouti Railway.  The recently completed standard heavy-gauge railway replaced an aging line build by foreign powers in 1917, and further bound the two nations together in operational management and economic development. While the new increased capacity railway was funded and constructed by the Chinese, a second component of energy infrastructure, the Horn of Africa Pipeline, was signed into construction with American funding in September of 2016. Upon expected completion in 2018, the combined trio of road, rail, and pipe will constitute an economic corridor that currently conveys 95% of Ethiopia’s trade.

The enormous territory of Ethiopia, like many countries in the region, has a history of uneven development. The impressive growth of the capital, Addis-Ababa, has been largely serviced by the country’s main conduit to the Gulf of Aden via the coastal nation of Djibouti. This has led to a North-Easterly focus from the capital, with the West and Southern regions of the country following in secondary priority. The Northern province of Tigray, often referred to as the cradle of Ethiopian civilization, has seen a largely disproportionate amount of investment over the past two decades. While culturally valuable, this mountainous region is one of the most arid regions of the country and provides relatively little with regards to the import or export activity (Abebe). The construction of a national railway from Addis-Ababa to Mek’ele, the provincial capital of Tigray, called bias and financially unwise by critics, is exactly what the national government did in 2012. This preferential misallocation of financial resources to the Northern region for political and ethnic motivations has left the country with substantial debt to international investors; and has made pressing initiatives in other parts of the nation difficult to fulfill (Akloweg).

The South West provinces of Ethiopia are host to the most agriculturally rich regions in the country, producing world-renown coffee and host to a substantial sugar industry. Unfortunately, these products are still confronted with substantial transport costs towards Addis-Ababa, hampering the economic viability of the produce. It is here that an improved transport corridor, namely the LAPSSET corridor project that is being promoted by Kenya, would have potentially great effect upon these isolated regions of Southern Ethiopia. Agreements towards the realization of the project however are hampered by a financially over extended government in Addis-Ababa. Not only has this made it difficult for the country to secure further international investment, but the projected financial models are increasingly demanding rapid returns. As a result, the promises of Kenya’s development and improved economy are a necessary precursor towards investment on the corridor in Ethiopia (Akloweg). It is here that the two countries find themselves interlocked in a mutually dependent – yet precarious – agreement towards development.

In the West of Ethiopia, the nation has constructed a pair of paved roadways into the agriculturally rich regions of the Country; but these arteries terminate before extending on to their true destinations: Malakal and Juba. The situation in South Sudan is as delicate as it is chaotic, and the conflict contained within its borders makes effective trade with Ethiopia dangerous and complex.  Kenya however, is uniquely positioned – both geographically and politically – to open South Sudanese markets to the world.

reliance: south sudan

“… we’re just waiting for the whole thing to collapse, really.”
– Country Director of South Sudan, the International Rescue Committee. Juba, May, 2017


.     In July of 2011, the world watched in amazement as Africa added a new nation to the global community. After decades of horrifying reports of intractable civil war, coupled with international media campaigns seeking to raise awareness of the ongoing atrocities, the South Sudanese themselves had taken an incredible step towards peace: they declared their independence and seceded from the Sudan. Celebrations erupted on the streets of the South as anticipation of a new era of peace and prosperity swept across the infant country.  In Juba, a signing of the declaration of independence was held to great fanfare. In attendance, were the presidents of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya (Gettleman).

The civil war that raged in the Sudan for decades had its roots in both political maneuvering and ethnic and tribal conflicts. From 1999 however, the vast resources of oil wealth found beneath the territories of Darfur and the Nuba Mountains became a resource that began to fuel conflict to horrific levels. The Greater Nile Pipeline, built to extract the vast resources, was aligned to the North through Khartoum and on to Port Sudan at the Red Sea. From there, profits from the sale of the oil were used to purchase weapons and further the fight against the Southern People’s Liberation Army (Nuba). In 2011, now that independence had been declared and a peace deal had been signed, it was anticipated that this same source of financing would be made available to fund the prosperous future of the new nation. The complications presented in front of this lofty goal however, were both social as well as physical and geographical.

The leadership of the new South Sudan was a built upon a resistance movement – a guerilla army – with the result of field commanders being placed in positions of political power.  The decommissioning of resistance fighters was slow, leaving heavily armed bands of warriors strewn across a loosely governed landscape. As a result, territorial disputes in the oil rich regions of the North/South border continued. Logistically and spatially, the majority of oil resources that continued to be extracted from South Sudanese territory had to be transferred through the Sudan via its existing pipeline infrastructure. With the North levying heavy tariffs upon these transactions (Veilleux), the meager profits gained by the South not only reopened hostilities between the nations, but prevented the new administration from securing the needed capital it needed to rebuild its war-ravaged country.

It was here that the LAPSSET corridor project was presented not only as a solution the financial obstructions to the South’s development, but as a strategy towards conflict mediation in the Darfur region. Transporting the oil and its profits through the South however presents navigational challenges that must be considered at the tribal level, thereby acknowledging the different forms of habitation exhibited in the country. With 64 ethnic tribes in South Sudan, each of which practice different customs and speak different languages, the diverse population can be divided into three categories: the farmers in the West, the nomads in the East, and the pastoralists in the interior. President Salva Kiir is an ethnic Dinka and pastoralist whose home region is in the center of the country. Since taking office, his administration has shown clear lack of interest in development initiatives that would assist the farmers to the west. Most notable is a road project through the South’s fertile “Bread Basket” (via Yei, Maridi, Yambio, and Tambura, to Wau). Such a project would greatly improve the welfare of the communities in the west, while facilitating food distribution throughout the country. Political rivals however, in the mind of the president, are apparently a greater threat than national hunger. The administration’s relations with the Nomads to the East of the country “are even worse” (Tata).  As a result of the spatial distribution of South Sudan’s tribal differences, President Kiir’s preferred options for development projects have been to look to the international community; to look South. With the complex tribal and political distribution across the country, it remains unclear if the connection that the LAPSSET corridor would provide would help or only further entangle the delicate nation in conflict.

Kenya has been a strong supporter of President Kiir’s administration. Initially expressing unwavering support at the inauguration of the newest African nation, Nairobi’s relations with Juba have grown in preparations towards realization of the corridor project. Juba’s desire to see South Sudan linked to the Indian Ocean has grown to a pressuring stance, such that the two leaders now speak not only of the challenges preventing progress into South Sudan, but also of the territorial conflicts plaguing the vast ‘frontier’ of Northern Kenya (Capital News).

the kenyan frontier

“Our founder fought bravely to have the right to make choices free of external influence. Today the world is full of wars driven by the desires of some to exploit the resources of independent nations.”
– Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, December 2016


.     Hailed as a beacon of opportunity in an otherwise unpredictable region, the World Bank has pointed to Kenya as having “the potential to be one of Africa’s great success stories.” Sighting a vibrant services sector, a stable currency, and figures indicating recurrent quarters of economic growth, the World Bank’s assessment of Kenya’s economy complements its global cultural image as a progressive nation that is located within a landscape of magnificent wildlife. As the primary force behind the LAPSSET initiative, it is precisely this image that is being pushed forward in pursuit of both regional and international partnerships. A review of even the most recent history however, reveals a nation that is replete with territorial conflict.

It was only a decade ago that the world witnessed a momentary lapse of this idyllic facade as the country descended into what is commonly referred to as the ‘election violence’ of 2007. On the surface, this month long destabilizing period during which over 1000 citizens were killed was the result of the disputed presidential election. Underpinning much of the conflict however, were disputes of land and territory in both the capital in the fertile regions of the western province.  In the aftermath of the violence, entire communities found themselves reshuffled and displaced. Territorial divisions were drawn along ethnic lines, and Kenya’s complex history of tribalism was revealed to the world.  To date, these fissures remain as a muted topic, yet are regarded by many to remain just as real as the image of prosperity that the nation hopes to obtain.

In the North, the indigenous pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities largely endured the conflicts of 2007 without incident. In 2011 however, when Tillow oil discovered massive oil deposits in the arid Lokichar basin, new value was ascribed to these former hinterlands. Numerous communities inhabit these sparsely populated territories, including the Sanye, Samburi and iconic Turkana tribes. These communities “are some of the most excluded from the socio-economic and political fabric of Kenya and are least equipped to respond to the new set of challenges that the LAPSSET transport corridor portends” (Sena, 3).  When asked in March of 2017 about the prospect of oil wealth and promises of prosperity, Asekon Ekai, a 56 year old Turkana woman, stated flatly that “the oil is ours and we will not leave Turkana if there is no money for us” (Muiruri).  While Tillow has established a number of amenities in the region, including a handful of schools and water projects, it is unclear if the company will be following through on its apparent promises of financial compensation.  It is further unclear or if the surrounding communities will remain permissive of Tillow’s operations if these promises are not met. This remote region of Kenya has rarely found its way into the national discourse however, as terrifying – and highly visible – attacks have drawn the nation’s gaze to the East.

Kenya’s relationship with Somalia was once one of refuge. As Somalia descended into civil war the 1990s, Kenya opened its borders for the hundreds of thousands fleeing war and famine. The past decade however has seen the relations between the Kenyan diaspora and ethnic Somalis deteriorate significantly. After two high profile terrorist attacks in Nairobi and Garissa at the hands of the Al-Shabaab, the Somali based militant terrorist organization, the Kenyan government launched a series of retaliation attacks into Somali territory. While the government and national media pointed to concerns of ‘national security’ as reasons for the intervention, Jason Mosley’s research identified an alternative motivation: “The salience of LAPSSET for the centralized economic vision … has been underscored by Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. [The terror attacks] triggered a Kenyan security intervention in Somalia to protect the LAPSSET agenda in Northern Kenya and Lamu. Subsequently, Kenya became more (not less) tightly tied to Somalia’s security troubles” (462).  This increased complexity of the ‘security’ situation along the Somali border has been met with hard-lined responses by the Kenyan administration in order to support an image of strength and determination. Principal among these actions are numerous efforts to dismantle Dadaab Refugee camp and forcibly relocate the hundreds of refugees. Such a drastic measure, while clearly an intention to pacify the region just north of the LAPSSET corridor, will likely destabilize the Somali border region even further; and sow the seeds of religious and ideological conflict upon a territory that is already socially and economically contested on Kenya’s coast…

lamu: a city on edge

“Lamu will not be denied the opportunity to be heard.”
– Save Lamu, public statement, December 2016


.     The town of Lamu boasts a rich history of Islamic and Swahili culture, and is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as “the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa.” Known for its beautiful characteristic architecture, vibrant traditional fishing industry, and pristine beaches and coral reefs, the town has existed for centuries as a destination for merchants and tourists alike. Ominous interventions of development however, have revealed Lamu to be on the front line of Kenya’s vision to transform its economy at the compromise of its cultural heritage.

Over the summer of 2016, the Government of Kenya awarded a contract of $480 million to the China Communication Construction Company for the construction of the first three of 32 births, and the first steps towards the Lamu Port transformation. Currently under way, the contractor has begun dredging avenues through Manda Bay in anticipation of the heavy construction to come.  Already built are a handful of placeholder buildings and field offices to coordinate the ongoing works, along with lengths of wall to enclose and define the effort. Within these boundaries, plans of resort cities and golf courses are shared and discussed with headquarters in Nairobi (Mwende).

Beyond these walls, the effects of rapidly rising property values, and an evolving physical and political landscape are exacerbated by rumors and miscommunication. Primoz Kovacic, a regional cartographer who has attended community activist meetings and conducted inclusive mapping exercises with Lamu citizens, explained that “Nairobi is so removed.  It’s their only interest to enrich themselves, and none of them give a shit about the people here. One fifth of this county is going to be gone, and the reason there is so much conflict is that no maps are being shared, and no one tells people when or where things are going to be built.”

The implications of this confusion make the looming economic and demographic (and therefore political) transformations more ominous and potentially volatile. The ongoing dredging is cutting a decisive slice through the local fishing economy. The Mkanda Channel has existed for generations to connect local fishermen from Amu Island to the inland fishing sites of Pate Island.  Essential during the monsoon seasons, the traditional boats, or Dhows, cannot contend with the rough seas of the Indian Ocean on the other side of Manda Island. The proposed port development area will consume this channel along with the livelihoods of the local fishermen. While it is argued that the massive developments will bring different and more lucrative jobs to the community, the impending demographic shift resulting from Kenyans arriving in search of employment is expected to offset and further silence the voices of indigenous Lamu community.

In response to the recent years of swirling rumors and mysterious construction activity, the community leaders of Lamu have assembled and consolidated their efforts in resistance to the activities of development by founding the Save Lamu organization. Interestingly, their voice is not in complete opposition to the Lamu Port project, standing rather as a call to “engage communities and stakeholders to ensure participatory decision-making so as to achieve sustainable and responsible development” ( This mission statement is supported by continued legal efforts to engage the Kenyan government towards transparent and consultative decision making, and protest signs that read “We want a port – only after community consultation!”

This conciliatory tone is perhaps emblematic of the conflicts plaguing the LAPSSET project and the massive development visions that have been established across the East Africa region.  Between cherished cultural traditions and the desires of development and modernization, the resulting challenges provoked point to a future in which identity and a pursuit of happiness will inevitably have to be redefined.

east african resolve

“You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself. That values itself. That understands itself.”
-Wangari Maathai, East African politician, theorist and environmentalist


.     In pursuit of modernization, the nations of East African have been caught within the confines of modernity itself. As the west progressed through the industrial revolution, concerns of environmental stewardship, indigenous rights, and indeed human rights were in their infancy. Now in an age of universal suffrage and an interconnected world of media and communication, modernity has shackled the developing world with physical and civil standards that are rife with intractable contradiction.

With the clear and substantial ambition exhibited by leaders in the East African community, it is likely that East Africa will continue on its path of social, physical and economic transformation via the LAPSSET corridor and its prolific visions of prosperity. Still, the recent policies that have been passed by the Kenyan government that have sought to erode civil liberties (DDG), the intractable conflicts raging in South Sudan, and the broad economic woes effecting the region point in a direction that is fraught with challenges.

This future, ominous as it may seem, remains uncharted.  Having endured and resisted a long history of colonialist rule and generations of economic hardship, the citizens of the region have emerged to address global obstacles with unique and novel African solutions. Such problems that are increasingly encountered in the developed world are repeatedly confronted by an Africa that fosters a resilient and resourceful entrepreneurial culture; one with limitless potential. As dredging of the Lamu port continues and the planning for a regional prosperity makes its way across the East African landscape, the physical and social challenges uprooted by the forces a globalized world will be confronted by an adaptive and enduring African resolve.



Abebe, Muse; Mekele-Woldia 1.6 Billion Dollar Rail Construction, Ethiopia News and Opinions. June, 2012:

Capital News; Kenya, South Sudan Move to Fast-Track LAPSSET Project, Capital Business, May 2013:

Gettleman, Jefferey; After Years of Struggle, South Sudan Becomes a New Nation, New York Times. July, 2011:

Kenyatta, Uhuru; President Uhuru Kenyatta Statement on LAPSSET. Jamhuri Magazine, undated:

Okoth, Jackson; President Uhuru Kenyatta Endorses Sh42b Lapsset deal amid unease in Lamu. The Standard. August, 2014:

Kenyatta, Uhuru; Youtube: Uhuru Says LAPSSET Must Proceed Even Without Uganda, April 2016.

Kovacic, Primoz; Documenting Potential Impact of Development Projects on communities in Lamu County, Spatial Collective Blog. April, 2015:

Muiruri, Peter; Lokichar Oil: A Blessing or a Curse for Turkana?, Standard Media, March 2017 :

Mwende, Judy, Kenya Sets Up Agency For Lamu Port Project, Construction Kenya. April, 2013:

Nuba Reports;

Reuters Africa; Tanzania, Uganda Agree to Speed Up Oil Pipeline Project, November, 2016.

Save Lamu, Mission Statement:

Tanzania Invest; Mwambani Economic Corridor Project in Good Course, MWAPORC Director Says, April, 2015:

Templeton, Dan, Tanzania Awards Standard Gauge Contract, International Railway Journal. February, 2017:

Tillow Oil, Uganda Operations. January 2017:

UNESCO, World Heritage Convention, Lamu Old Town, Description:

US Department of State; President Museveni highlights Ugandan Achievements for Americans, September, 2005 :

World Bank; Kenya Overview. March, 2017:

World Bank; Uganda Overview. April, 2017:

Xinhua, Chinese Contractor to Complete First Birth of Lamu Port in Mid 2018, Standard Digital Media, April 2017:


Graham, Stephen and Simon Marvin; Splintering Urbanism, Routledge, New York, 2001.

Hill, Mervyn, Permanent Way: Story of the Kenya Uganda Railway. East Africa Railways and Harbors, Nairobi, Kenya. 1961.

Menkaus, Ken; Danish Demining Group; Conflict Assessment / 2014 – Northern Kenya and Somaliland, March 2015.
Mosley, Jason and Elizabeth Watson; Frontier Transformations:

Development Visions, Spaces and Processes in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia; Journal of East African Studies, 2016.

Sena, Kanyinke; Lamu Port South Sudan Transport Corridor and Indigenous Peoples in Kenya, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; undated:


Akloweg, Yilak; Transport Planner, Ethiopia Ministry of Transport. Cambridge, MA. April, 2017.

Della Rosa, Flavia; Research Associate, Kimetrica. Nairobi, Kenya. January, 2017.

Herbert, Richard; Chairman and Executive Director, Aeolus Kenya LTD. Nairobi, Kenya. January 2017.

Kovacic, Primoz; Founder and Executive Director, Spatial Collective. Skype (Nairobi). May, 2017.

Tata, Justin; Transport Planner, the Government of South Sudan. Skype (Nairobi). April, 2017.

Veilleux, Ronald-Paul; Country Director of South Sudan, International Rescue Committee. Skype (Juba). May, 2017.


Cover Image: Tillow Lokichar Oil Extraction Site

Figure 1: Protests in Lamu County

Figure 2: Colonial Era Railway Map
Hill, Mervyn, Permanent Way: Story of the Kenya Uganda Railway. East Africa Railways and Harbors, Nairobi, Kenya. 1961.

Figure 3:
Graham, Stephen and Simon Marvin; Splintering Urbanism, Routledge, New York, 2001.

Figure 4:

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