Deals Uhuru wants from China meet

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga at a previous function (PHOTO: FILE)
President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently in China where he will join 40 Heads of State and government for the second Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum today.

The high level global meeting on infrastructure projects involves 150 countries and multinational organisations, and is being spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Uhuru is also expected to lobby for funds for extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu. The estimated cost of the project is Sh380 billion.

The Government is understood to have proposed that the funds for the 270-kilometre line be split into a loan and a grant.

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Uhuru left the country on Tuesday night without any official communication from the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) on his itinerary. His deputy, William Ruto, was not at the airport to see him off.

The absence of Ruto, who remains in charge when Uhuru is away, was unexplained.

Whenever the President leaves, the country and national government officials, especially security bosses, troop to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to see him off.

On Tuesday, some officials, including some CSs and top military officers were present at the airport.

Dr Ruto's handlers said the DP had been out of the country for Easter Holidays.

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“He arrived back in Nairobi on Tuesday night. He was not around, but now he is in charge,” an aide to Ruto said.

Uhuru will be participating in the talks in China for the second time since the 2017 meeting when he called for closer cooperation between China and Africa.

The President is also scheduled to hold talks with his host and several other world leaders.

BIR seeks to connect three continents - Africa, Asia and Europe. Kenya is building the SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi as a result of the initiative.

Transport CS James Macharia said Kenya would sign several deals during the meeting that end on Saturday.

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"We will be signing deals regarding my sector on April 25. The deals include a Public Private Partnership agreement for construction of the Nairobi Express Highway from JKIA,” said Mr Macharia, who is accompanying Uhuru in China.

The new Nairobi Express Highway will cost Sh65 billion.

"This is private sector money, the Government will not be borrowing to fund this project,” said Macharia.

“We are negotiating a deal to operationalise and maintain the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR after is completion in August 2019,” he added.

The 120km SGR linking the capital to Naivasha will cost Sh150 billion. The 485km Mombasa-Nairobi was completed in May 2017 at a cost of Sh327 billion.

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Uhuru is said to have requested President Xi to provide 50 per cent of the Sh380 billion for the project as grant, citing the regional significance of SGR's extension to Kisumu.

By yesterday, the team comprising Uhuru, AU Infrastructure envoy Raila Odinga and CSs Macharia, Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs) and Peter Munya (Trade) was still in discussions on various subjects.

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