LAPSSET project & rural politics in northern Kenya
In 2012, construction began on the Lamu Port–South Sudan–Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor in northern Kenya. This is designed to connect Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia with new transport infrastructure, including a highway, railway and pipeline. According to planners, it will drive economic growth by improving trade, attracting investors and stimulating rural development along the transport routes. However, many local people – mainly pastoralists – worry about how LAPSSET may alter their access to and control over land. The article “Infrastructure projects and rural politics in northern Kenya: the use of divergent expertise to negotiate the terms of land deals for transport infrastructure” by Charis Enns, published in the Journal of Peasant Studies (2017, 19pp), describes how rural groups are trying to negotiate proposed land-use changes for LAPSSET by creating and deploying expertise that challenges government claims about the costs and benefits of the corridor for local communities. It shows that, just as expertise can be constructed and circulated “from above” to legitimise land deals for transport infrastructure, counterclaims can be produced and mobilised by local people to unsettle these land deals. The paper considers how power inequalities shape and constrain the ability of different rural groups to negotiate the terms of land deals to their own advantage.