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Kenya Sets up Navy Base Near Disputed Indian Ocean Waters

Image courtesy of Ministry of Defense - Kenya
Image courtesy of Ministry of Defense - Kenya

Published Sep 29, 2021 10:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

President Uhuru Kenyatta has commissioned a new Navy Manda Bay Base in the coastal region of Lamu, where Kenya recently opened a new port. The area is prone to terrorist attacks instigated by the Somalia-based al-Shabaab group.

The naval enhancement comes days before The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is set to rule on a longstanding maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia. Its decision is expected on October 12.

"The Kenya Navy Base Manda Bay is of utmost significance in enhancing counterterrorism efforts and maritime security, besides protecting the country's port infrastructure. In addition, this base boosts security in the region and guards vital trade routes that are the lifeblood of international commerce," said President Kenyatta.

The base is strategically located in the Lamu archipelago, the epicenter of the $24 billion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project.

Kenya has also touted Lamu as a hotspot for exploiting the blue economy, and it is collaborating with the World Bank in a $100 million socio-economic development project designed to support a sustainable marine fisheries sector and help diversify the income of rural coastal communities. 

The fishing community in Lamu has warned that the dispute with Somalia will significantly impact local livelihoods if the ICJ rules in favor of Mogadishu and Nairobi is forced to cede over 30,000 square nm of territory in the Indian Ocean.   

Currently, the nation's blue economy supports an estimated two million people directly and indirectly, and Kenya reckons it has the potential to contribute three times its present share of the gross domestic product if fully exploited.

"Given the growing investments in this part of our country and the promise of the maritime domain, Manda is an invaluable listening and watching tower for Kenya and Kenyans," said President Kenyatta.