LAMU (Xinhua) — Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said on Friday the East African country will continue to work with its neighbors to ensure that any security challenges to development endeavors are neutralized.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

He was speaking in the Indian Ocean coastal town of Lamu during the ground-breaking ceremony for the Lamu Port-South Sudan- Ethiopia Transport Project (LAPSSET).

Kibaki welcomed the progress made in stabilizing Somalia, saying Kenya stands ready to help its Somali brothers and sisters as they seek peace and prosperity during the reconstruction of their country.

“I have no doubt that many years of peace and prosperity lie ahead for our entire region.

“Indeed, the presence of my brother President Salva Kiir South Sudan, less than a year after his country attained independence, is testimony of the possibilities of peace, self-determination and progress despite many years of strife,” Kibaki said.

The Kenyan leader whose country launched cross-border incursion into Somalia to battle with Al-Shabaab blamed for a series of abduction of foreigners lauded the African Union, the regional bloc COMESA, the East Africa Community, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), as well as development partners including the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for supporting the LAPSSET project.

“I have no doubt that this day will go down in history as one of the defining moments, when we made a major stride to connect our people to the many socio-economic opportunities that lie ahead, ” President Kibaki said.

He said while developing Lamu port, all necessary precautions must be taken to ensure that there is minimal interference with the delicate ecosystem and cultural heritage.

“Therefore, adequate expertise and technology must be deployed to ensure the desired development is achieved while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability,” he said.

The Kenyan leader also directed the ministries concerned to train and re-skill an initial 1,000 youth from these areas in readiness for taking up job opportunities that will be created by this port and the corridor.

“I have also directed that a technical institute be constructed as an integral part of the port development to ensure continuous training and re-skilling of local people,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi expressed optimism that the regional infrastructure project will propel the three countries’ collective development forward.

The Ethiopian prime minister noted that the LAPSSET project will add credence to Kenya’s position as a gateway to East and Central Africa. He added that the transport project will help expedite the vision of integration into reality.

“LAPSSET will not only better link our economies, but also bring our people together,” Prime Minister Zenawi said.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir congratulated President Kibaki and the people of Kenya for the realization of the dream transport project to spur regional economic integration.

President Kiir added that the transport project will create export opportunities for the three countries and enhance national and regional stability.

He thanked the Kenyan government for playing a key role in the Sudan peace process that culminated in the birth of the young nation of South Sudan last year.

President Kibaki, among others, disclosed that the Kenya government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of South Sudan to develop an oil pipeline from Juba to Lamu.

“This is an important component of LAPSSET.”

“Moreover, in order to boost power requirements for LAPSSET projects, Kenya has signed an agreement with the government of Ethiopia for negotiated electricity supply,” President Kibaki said.

Observers say Kenya, which mediated the peace talks that culminated in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, has strategic interests with the two countries as Juba will increasingly rely on Kenya as it develops its infrastructure and trade with the outside world.

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