Chinese railway may bring Uhuru back to power in Kenya

Chinese railway may bring Uhuru back to power in Kenya

By ANTONIA FILMER | Nairobi | 16 October, 2016
Chinese railway, Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta, China Exim Bank

Kenya is gearing up to a general election in August next year. There are accusations and likely to be unfulfilled promises flung in every direction. The stirrer-uppers say that folks only go into politics to make themselves rich. With 47 counties administrated by 20/30 people, a central party of plus 300 members and a smaller senate, there are ample opportunities for those of a corrupt disposition; it is rumoured that all these positions are highly lucrative; corruption figures are estimated in astronomically billions of dollars.

It is expected that President Uhuru Kenyatta will get a second term due to the anticipated success and legacy of the Chinese sponsored Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). With 609 km of track, it is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since independence in 1963. China Exim Bank will have provided 90% (approximately US $3.5bn) of the financing, while the remaining 10% has come from the Kenyan government. The China Road and Bridge Corporation has built the project according to Chinese railway design standards and China is supplying the initial rolling stock comprising 56 diesel locomotives, 1,620 wagons and 40 coaches. The SGR might well be a Chinese strategic communication ambition, for freight and passengers to travel by rail from coast to coast between east and west central Africa, via Kampala/Uganda, Kigali/Rwanda (with a branch line to Juba in South Sudan) and on to Kinshasa/Congo. Already 95% complete from Mombasa to Nairobi, the extraordinary project of the SGR traverses by raised causeway in the wildlife park of Tsavo. Sceptics are concerned there are not enough tunnels beneath for animals to follow their traditional routes. Still notwithout controversy, as the SGR nears Nairobi where the current plan is to build 18 metre high flyover above Nairobi National Park, the only conservation/game park in the world in the middle of a city. Environmentalists and the Kenya Wildlife Service claim the government has not carried out the necessary “Environmental Impact Assessment”. The Maasai tribe are also allegedly upset as they gave up the land for conservation and not for infrastructure purposes. This coming week the Friends of Nairobi National Park plans to demonstrate outside the Chinese embassy. A major challenge has been land acquisition for the project. As the land policy on infrastructure development is poorly defined, this has led to litigation from a diversity of stakeholders including peasants, fishermen, county governments and people’s representatives. The original electrification of the line is still in limbo, because of the lack of an adequate and reliable electricity transmission platform. The government is planning to construct new coal and nuclear power stations with a network of transmission lines that will eventually facilitate railway electrification.


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