A space center at the Kenyan coast is at the centre of a cold war between Kenya and Italy over its management.
The Luigi Broglio Malindi Space Centre has pitted the two governments of Rome and Nairobi after the latter decided to disown a bilateral agreement on the establishment of the centre.
The space centre has been operated by Italian government for over 60 years before Kenya renegotiated and ratified the agreement following the approval of Parliament in 2020, with the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) and Italian Space Agency (ASI) as the implementing parties.
The agreement is said to have been hinged on five areas of cooperation between the two countries, which are; support for KSA, access to earth observation and space science data, education and training, telemedicine, and establishment of a centre for earth observation.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale told the National Assembly Committee on Implementation that the Italian government failed to honour the agreement on the space centre which sits on 3.5 hectares of land belonging to the ministry.
“This is the position of the government that was passed by the Cabinet because these people are operating with all the impunity. The land where the facility sits belongs to us and we know how to take it.” Duale told the Raphael Wanjala-led committee.
Duale confided in the MPs that he had turned down an invitation to Rome for the June 18 ministerial conference on the space facility until issues Kenya raised are addressed.
He explained to the committee that he had blocked the agreement when he served as National Assembly Majority Leader and that within two months of his removal in June 2020, the agreement was brought to Parliament for ratification.
There is nothing much to show for it either at the national or local level around the space centre, according to Duale, and Kenya is yet to reap from the cooperation.
Documents availed to the committee show that ASI owes the government of Kenya $250,000 (about Sh35.4 million using the current exchange rate) in land rent for 2022 alone. Third-party authorization fees for 2021 and 2022 are also yet to be paid.