Malindi – August 2 2012 - A diplomatic row is simmering between Kenyan government and its counterpart Italian government over San Marco space center owned by Italian government situated at Ngomeni in Magarini district in the Coast of Kenya. The Space center has been said to be of no improtant to Kenyans since it has not benefited in any means by a joint parliamentary select-committee on Energy, communication and information together with Education, Science and technology committee which met the management team of the space center at the center.
During the meeting the General Manager of the center Roberto Ibba was put to task by member of the house to explain how much the center earned yearly and how much they were paying to the government as revenue according to the agreement. Members of the house also wanted agreement documents signed by both governments Italy and Kenya on the extension of its services to be issued to the committees. “It is our view that this space center have not helped Kenyans by any means and so we want to ensure that before another agreement between the two governments is entered there is clear explanation of how the country will benefit. Because we want at the end to own this space center or come up with ours,” said Engineer James Rege chairman of Energy, Information and communication parliamentary committee.
Rege went further to add that the space center has only been used to monitor satellites being launched in other countries like Argentina, Italy, Europe and China among others expressing optimism that it can be used in flood mitigation, education and food security in the country. “We can use this site to monitor floods which may occur in future, for education of our children who can run it in future and rainfall for food security if at all we own it because we want to come up with our own space agency,” he added.
The Karachuonyo MP said that they will come up with a bill in parliament that will enable all Kenyans to benefit from the station in future before entering into agreement of continuing with its activities. Migori MP and Education, Science and Technology parliamentary committee chairman, said they will pin down eh management to the space center and reveal the amount of income they get yearly.
He said that the government will not be allowed to sign any other agreement with the space center owned by Italian government before it is clearly stated how the country will benefit from activities carried by the space center on Kenya soil and waters. “We feel that the country is losing millions of money from this space center and yet it operates from our country,” he added. The MPS also demanded to know the exact number of Kenyans working at the center and how many were in the managerial team but the general manager told the house that there were 240 workers with Kenyans being 220 and Italians being 20 and only 6 Kenyans were in the managerial team.
The house also demanded salary structures of all workers working at the space center after some workers lamented that they were being discriminated by being paid peanut compared to their colleagues from Italy performing the same duties according to some workers who refused to be named. For example Kenyan workers at the center the highest is not paid more than 100,000 salary and the lowest one get less than 20,000 while Italians working in the same center performing the same duties are well paid about 0.5 million per month. Ibba told the house that payments of workers living in Kenyan and those from outside the country are different though they were working at making sure that the difference does not bring animosity between workers at the center.
However a representative of Italian Embassy Alberto La Bella said Italian government has already done with 19 per cent of its projects carried in some schools and health centers in the area on its agreement of cooperation between the two governments. Mr. Bella added that they are negotiating on 600 million shillings which will be ready soon for completing the projects after 300 millions were already used in the area. The general Manager Roberto Ibba said that the two countries had extended the 1995 agreement from 2010 march to 2013 June. In his presentation in the house Ibba said the center had been able to launch 27 satellites and the latest was in 1987 noting that the base is only suited for small rockets.
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