What you need to know:
- Director of Transport Benon Kajura told Daily Monitor on the sidelines of an ongoing three-day SGR technical committee meeting that government walked away from China Harbour Engineering Company Limited after years of unfulfilled promises.
A senior officer in the Works and Transport ministry yesterday blamed delays in the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project on failure by the Chinese firm contracted for the job to secure financing.
Director of Transport Benon Kajura told Daily Monitor on the sidelines of an ongoing three-day SGR technical committee meeting that government walked away from China Harbour Engineering Company Limited after years of unfulfilled promises.
The Chinese firm has since been replaced with Yapi Merkezi, a Turkish firm.
“We signed a contract with a Chinese firm in 2016. The condition was that they were going to finance the project and then do the construction. Seven years down the road, the financing was not forthcoming. That is what caused us to move in that direction,” Mr Kajura said.
“The advantage with Yapi is that they are already doing the same work in Tanzania; they have good experience in terms of equipment, personnel, workmanship, and have worked in other African countries before, including Ethiopia, Zambia and have agreed to finance the project,” he added.
Mr David Mugabe, senior public relations officer on the project, said even when Uganda had fulfilled its side of the bargain, the Chinese company showed no movement.
“For over five years, there had been no funding coming forth for whatever reason. They went mute. I think their partner bank, which is called Exim Bank of China, went slow due to Covid-19. Many countries, including Kenya, were victims of this,” Mr Mugabe said.
Mr Kajura, nonetheless, said despite the challenges, there is renewed momentum and enthusiasm among member states for the project.
He noted that the project, which is an East African collaboration, has already seen the line being laid from Mombasa up to Naivasha in Kenya.
Preparations for construction from Naivasha through Kisumu, up to Malaba in Uganda are in final stages, Mr Kajura said.
It is anticipated that the construction of line from Malaba border to Kampala will start next financial year, which begins in July, and thereafter proceed on the Kampala-Kasese route, linking up to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Whereas the government of Kenya has done the construction, we are in the final phases with the preparations and soon we shall be signing contracts with Yapi Engineering Merkezi who are going to construct the SGR for Uganda from Malaba up to Kampala phase I, and proceed with phase II, linking up, Kasese and also south to the Rwanda border,” Mr Kajura said.
He said during phase III, the construction will stretch from Tororo to Gulu, linking up to Nimule so that South Susan can also be able to start from Nimule, constructing up to Juba. Construction will also be carried from Gulu, linking up again to DR Congo.
Dr Duncan Hunda, Kenya’s secretary for Transport, echoed the popular view that railway transport remains the cheapest mode of transport for cargo over long distances and must be embraced.
On the question about the puzzling rehabilitation of the country’s old Metre Gauge Railway network alongside construction of the SGR, Eng Perez Wamburu, the SGR project coordinator in Uganda’s Works ministry, said this was intended to revamp the railway sector.