Nairobi to Addis Ababa (3) Lamu

We headed up the coast all the way to Lamu, the last major town before the Somali border. Lamu itself is an island and the salt breezes wash over the classical Swahili architecture and through the narrow alleys. There are no cars, donkeys being the preferred mode of urban transport. ‘Bee-Beep! Lamu car!’ is delivered in sublime deadpan as both a warning and explanation from the donkey riders in the alleys. The mangrove coastline around Lamu is negotiated by means of the supremely elegant, triangular sailed dhows which line the harbour.

Lamu is tourist-ed but not in a way that detracts or compromises its identity as a living, breathing functioning community, harbour and town. The proposed construction of the Juba-Lamu oil pipeline (designed so that newly independent South Sudan can export its oil without having to go through Khartoum controlled northern areas of that now-divided country) may have a profound impact on the area. It certainly adds another important strategic element for consideration by the government in Nairobi. The Somali refugee crisis and destabilisation from Somali militants in the Northern Frontier District all have a new salience when considering where this pipeline may go. Recent Kenyan military intervention in Somalia suggests that the region is becoming a priority to secure against a spill-over of the conflict that continues to rage in South-Central Somalia.

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