MPs want Kenya out of Malindi space centre deal with Italy

Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale when he appeared before National Assembly Defense, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, in Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

MPs want the government to pull out of the "one-sided" bilateral agreement with Italy that led to the establishment of a space centre in Malindi, Kilifi County.

The lawmakers noted that Lugi Brogoli Malindi Space Centre is only benefitting Italy as opposed to the initial arrangement where both countries would reap its benefits.

The National Assembly Defense, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committee, on Wednesday, termed the deal between the two countries as one-sided as it was only beneficial to the Italians.

This emerged during the grilling of Defense Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale who had appeared before the committee to shed light on the status of the agreement that has been in force for the last 60 years.

Duale had submitted that Kenya and Italy had, in 2020, agreed to the use of the Luigi Broglio Malindi Space Centre for both countries' scientific, technological, and socioeconomic development.

Jointly manage

The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) were to jointly manage the space centre that sits on 3.5 hectares of the Kenya Defense Forces land.

Under the deal, Kenya was to benefit by gaining access to Earth Observation and Space Science Data, support to the KSA, education and training, telemedicine and the establishment of a centre for earth observation.

However, the Belgut MP Nelson Koech-led committee heard that three years after the agreement's ratification by Parliament, there was slow implementation and that the Italian Space Centre has been conducting activities exclusively benefiting it and its Western partner agencies.

“The committee will give the ministry and the executive support on this endeavour, to terminate the agreement because, from the submissions that have been made, it is clear Kenya has not been benefiting from the agreement despite the facility being on Kenyan soil,” said Koech.

Satellite dishes at Luigi Broglio Space Centre popularly known as San Marco at Ngomeni village in Magarini sub-county, Kilifi County. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

This was after Duale revealed the Italian officials had made advancements on the Deputy President Riagthi Gachagua and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi for them to continue operating in opaqueness during their recent visit to Rome.

“Recently the Deputy President was headed to Italy where I knew the Italian officials would request to meet and sweep this matter under the rag. Luckily, I briefed the DP before he left and he did not meet them. Linturi was also briefed by our ambassador and did not meet with them,” said Duale.

Gilgil MP Martha Wangari sought to know why Kenya had not effected the exit clause given that it is now five months since the Ministry of Defense last wrote to their Italian counterparts to honour their part of the agreement.

“It feels like we are in an abusive relationship with Italy because they seem to be getting all the benefits while we suffer. If we are not getting any commercial or educational benefits from the facility then we need a way to disentangle ourselves from the agreement,” said Wangari.

Terminating deal

Kajiado Central MP Kanchory Memusi demanded to know what the country had gained from the facility over the last 60 years and why Kenya appears slow in terminating the deal that has proved non-beneficial to Kenyans.

“This is our territory yet people are telling us what today. We should kick them out and then negotiate from a position of advantage,” said Memusi.

Saboti MP Clement Sloya said that Parliament would help fast-track the termination process and implored Duale to get into other agreements that were beneficial to the country.

Duale, in his response, noted that Kenya was already talking to countries such as India and the USA with a view of collaborating on space matters.

“We have our own space agency that can fill the vacuum should the Italians exit…all we want is that they honour their part of the agreement by operating truthfully and submitting dues owed to Kenya,” said the CS.

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