Italy-Kenya, agreement between Mattarella and Ruto to restart dam work
On March 14, Kenya and Italy reached an agreement for the resumption of work on the Arror, Kimwarer and Itare dams, contracted to the Romagna company Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti (Cmc) and interrupted by the Kenyan government in 2019 on allegations of public and private corruption . The agreement, signed in Nairobi by the Kenyan president William Ruto and his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, commits the parties to abandoning their legal actions: Cmc backs down on the arbitration started in the Hague court for non-payments on its own please, Nairobi withdraws all the charges brought against Cmc, in an affair that indirectly also impacted the two companies involved in the financial planning of the tender (Sace and Intesa Sanpaolo).
The dams game is unlocked
The Kenyan government aims to file the paperwork within a month, to then renegotiate the loan that has been frozen for over three years and get construction sites back on track. The two countries, according to the joint statement by Ruto and Mattarella, agree to "re-establish cooperation" for the construction of the three dams and other water-sanitary projects "fundamental to our security and climate action agenda". The mutual agreements between Rome and Nairobi unlocks a story that has been dragging on for years and risked resulting in millionaire compensation, as well as having stalled infrastructure projects of great impact and cracked relations between Italy and one of the hubs of the East African economy . In 2015, Cmc was awarded the contracts for the construction of the Arror, Kimwarer and Embobut dams, for a value estimated at the time at around 62 billion Kenyan shillings (about 500 million euros). Work on the first two began in 2017, in 2019 the then president Kenyatta decided to suspend the projects of Arror and Kimwarer due to the allegations hypothesized by Kenya's Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
The investigations focused on the "improper" behavior of senior government officials such as Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Treasury Secretary Kamau Thugge, accused of "plundering" public finances and abusing their power. The Itare project, again entrusted to Cmc, in turn ended up under the scrutiny of the investigators and remained in standby until today, although it was already in a more advanced stage. The agreement between Mattarella and Ruto reopens a dossier that had developed (and closed) before the Covid pandemic, even if the terms and costs of the agreement will have to be adjusted to a very different situation than that left behind four years ago. Local media report that the choice of the Nairobi government, however different from that of Kenyatta in 2019, may have been influenced by the fear of losing the arbitration and being forced to pay a refund in the order of 12.4 billion Kenyan shillings , the equivalent of approximately 87.5 million euros at the current exchange rate. Kenya, one of the main economies of East Africa, is in check by a drought crisis that threatens repercussions on over five million citizens between March and June 2023 alone. Mattarella himself announced that Italy will undertake to invest 14 billion Kenyan shillings (almost 102 million euros) in grants and soft loans to cover projects in agriculture, SMEs, housing, urban settlements and digital.