Lamu is still a hotspot for in­vest­ment

The Star (Kenya) - - News Business -

Iwas sit­ting at a very well-ap­pointed din­ner ta­ble in Wichen­ford, Worces­ter­shire when my host Mr. Richard Brit­ten-Long said. ‘’Aly-Khan, if you care to think about it, Su­per­power sta­tus is only achieved through Naval Power.’’

Of course, that made me think of episodes of ‘’Gun­boat diplo­macy’’ like the Don Paci­fico In­ci­dent in 1850, in which the Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Lord Palmer­ston dis­patched a squadron of the Royal Navy to block­ade the Greek port of Pi­raeus in re­tal­i­a­tion for the harm­ing of a Bri­tish sub­ject, David Paci­fico.

From the Don Paci­fico in­ci­dent I lept to the re­cently con­vened TICADV1 con­fer­ence in Nairobi where I had heard Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe in per­son say the fol­low­ing,

“Ja­pan bears the re­spon­si­bil­ity of fos­ter­ing the con­flu­ence of the Pa­cific and In­dian Oceans”

And then a few short weeks af­ter that com­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Abe, I learnt that three Ja­panese naval ships had ar­rived in Mom­basa un­der the com­mand of Rear-Ad­mi­ral Hidetoshi Iwasaki with 750 of­fi­cers. The three ships —JS Kashima, JS Se­toyuki and JS Asa­giri were the first time Ja­panese naval ves­sels had vis­ited Mom­basa since 1970.

Nick Turse who likes to shine a torch on US mil­i­tary power pro­jec­tion in Africa had re­cently writ­ten in The In­ter­cept about a $100 mil­lion Amer­i­can Drone Base that was be­ing built on the out­skirts of Agadez in Niger

‘’Niger has po­si­tioned it­self to be the key re­gional hub for U.S. mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, with Agadez serv­ing as the premier out­post for launch­ing in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, and re­con­nais­sance mis­sions against a plethora of ter­ror’’ [Nick Turse in The In­ter­cept] And then I had a kind of epiphany and said ‘’Lamu?’’ I had be­gun to dis­count Lamu and its big dreams of be­ing an oil and gas hot-spot, what with Mu­sev­eni elect­ing to go the Tanga route, South Su­dan be­ing at Ground Zero [well be­low Ground Zero when you con­sider they are $4 bil­lion off-side with noth­ing to show for it] and Ethiopia work­ing the Dji­bouti an­gle.

Then I re­called con­ver­sa­tions with other folks who had told me with real con­vic­tion, The Amer­i­cans want Lamu and they are ready to in­vest.

You can con­trol the straits of Hor­muz from Lamu and as I be­lieve the In­dian Ocean is a kind of ap­pendage of the South China sea, then I have to con­clude that Lamu is a na­tional se­cu­rity Gig and the equiv­a­lent of the Agadez of the Sea.

So I am back to be­ing a buyer of Lamu on the ba­sis that it is all about hav­ing a stag­ing post to project naval and mil­i­tary power across this vast swathe of the world, an arc that runs from Mozam­bique all the way to In­dia and fur­ther just like the old Dhow routes [that re­lied on the ‘’re­versible es­ca­la­tor mon­soon wind’’] The Troika of pow­ers are the US, In­dia and Ja­pan and given that they are seek­ing to tri­an­gu­late China in the South China Sea, it does not take much to ex­trap­o­late that Lamu has a geopo­lit­i­cal role to play, which role has been ob­scured by the oil and gas chat­ter.

Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta with Ja­pan’s Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe at the close of TICAD VI in Nairobi on Au­gust 30.

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