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Kenya upgrades Manda Bay to base

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially upgraded Naval Station Manda Bay in Kenya's northern Lamu County to the status of a naval base on 23 September.

A statement on the president's website said the move “will see the military installation gain expanded operational autonomy as it sets out to become a more geo-strategic facility for national, regional, and global security operations”.

“The Kenya Navy Base Manda Bay is of utmost significance in enhancing counter-terrorism efforts and maritime security, besides protecting the country's port infrastructure,” the president said in a speech during the ceremony at the base.

The president inaugurated a new commercial port about five km to the south of the base in May. Built by a Chinese company, Lamu port is part of an ambitious plan to link Ethiopia and South Sudan to the Indian Ocean via roads, railways, and pipelines running across Kenya.

The Kenya Defence Forces provided a brief history of its Manda Bay base, saying it was commissioned in 1995, has been used as a US military forward operating location since 2004, was the launch point for amphibious operation that captured the Somali port of Kismaayo in 2012, and has hosted a Multi-Agency Command Centre since 2014.

It did not mention the attack on the base's airstrip in January 2020, when the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab destroyed several US intelligence-gathering aircraft and killed three Americans. Satellite imagery shows that security has since been enhanced by an improved perimeter and the clearance of vegetation for around 150 m beyond it.

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