Italy has moved to forestall a diplomatic tiff over the over the operations of the Luigi Broglio Malindi Space Centre.
Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua met Italy Ambassador to Kenya Robert Natali, who paid a courtesy call at the headquarters, on Wednesday.
“In our discussions, we reviewed Kenya-Italy relations and expressed our satisfaction on the warm relations that exist between the two countries especially in areas of scientific research, health cooperation, ICT among others,” Mutua said in a statement.
The meeting comes just a week after Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale last Thursday expressed dissatisfaction to the National Assembly Implementation Committee in regards to the operations at the Luigi Broglio Malindi Space Centre, a bilateral initiative between Kenya and Italy, saying he was preparing a Cabinet memo on the government’s intent to disengage from the agreement.
Duale also vowed not to attend a joint-inter-ministerial meeting in Rome that was slated for July 18 to discuss the matter.
True to his word, Duale remained in the country, where he attended the Cabinet meeting and hosted various officials among them UK Ambassador to Somalia Mike Nithavrianakis.
The Space Centre agreement was entered in 2020, for the Kenya Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency to jointly manage it for scientific, technological and socioeconomic development of both countries. The facility sits on 3.5 hectares of the Kenya Defense Forces land.
In the agreement, the committee heard, Kenya was to benefit from 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, Duale said that three years after the agreement was ratified, there was slow implementation of the agreement and that the Italian Space Centre was conducting activities exclusively benefiting it and its Western partner agencies.
He noted that Italy had only met select obligations but avoided the substantive commitments such as making full disclosure on their commercial contracts with third parties for the remittance of 50 per cent of the profits of contracts.
“The facility is currently undertaking a number of commercial activities in support of satellite launches and provision of telemetry, tracking and command services to a number of clients including the French Ariane Space, European Space Agency, NASA, SpaceX, Chinese Aerospace Administration and other international clients, with no significant share of profits accruing to the Government of Kenya,” CS Duale said.
“They have also failed to disclose the value of the contracts or avail copies of all the contracts to KSA. The Government of Kenya is therefore unable to determine its fair share of the profits and authorization fees due, owing to their lack of full disclosure,” he added.
The CS maintained that Kenya is keen to get a fair share of the proceeds realized as per the agreement and assured the Committee the maximum support of the Ministry of Defence in finding a lasting solution of the stalemate to enable Kenya to reap from space-derived data.
He was appearing to discuss and answer questions raised on the status of the implementation of the Kenya-Italy Bilateral Agreement on the Luigi Broglio- Malindi Space Centre.
On March 15, 2023, Italian President Sergio Mattarella visited the Space Center, terming it a manifestation of the good bilateral ties.
“The Malindi Space Center stands out as a highly successful example of cooperation that we are determined to support jointly sharing responsibilities and goals. It is a scientific and technological cooperation that sets the tone for future activities which we plan to intensify,” Mattarella said.
He added that it would continue to build capacity among Kenyans, offer infrastructure support and share space-derived data that would go a long way in contributing to social economic development as well as strengthening bilateral relations.