On April 20, Opposition-Leader-Turned-President Uhuru Kenyatta’s-ally Raila Odinga said in Nyakach he was optimistic that his trip to China with the president would yield Sh300-billion loan for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway from Naivasha to Uganda.
Two days later, Raila and the president flew to China to attend the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit.
Upon the completion of summit, mainstream and social media were abuzz with screaming reports that China had declined to give Kenya the billions Raila had talked of.
With such talk in the air, the President’s Chief of Staff and Head of Presidential Delivery Unit Mr Nzioka Waita swiftly dismissed the reports as false.
He would later appear on KTN’s Checkpoint news show Sunday evening, where he said the president’s trip to China was not a Kenya-specific state visit, clarifying that President Uhuru had only attended a forum for global leaders.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is a multilateral event that involves over 60 heads of state and government. They came for a meeting as global leaders to discuss global interconnectivity of infrastructure to improve trade between east and west and south and north,” said Waita.
He added: “And just to put the practicality into context, there is no room for a meeting of more than 10 minutes between any head of state for a bilateral minute”.
According to Nzioka from the onset, it was impossible to discuss the railway-funding agenda because the summit was a multilateral event.
“So President Kenyatta meeting with president Xi Jinping was one of several bilateral meetings China’s president had,” Nzioka told KTN.
On Raila’s remarks and the China trip, Nzioka said: “The African Union High Representative on Infrastructure was there in his capacity as African Union High Representative and it is his job to advocate cross-continental infrastructure”.
Nzioka did not think Raila had anything to complain about or make apologies for because, he argued, SGR was part of a bigger piece of the infrastructure program that runs from Kenya right to the heart of Africa, which is what Raila was in China to advocate.
“I think when Raila said what he said he meant the best for the country but the fact of the matter is it was not part of the agenda.”
When asked why he could not clarify the matter before President Uhuru and his delegation departed to China Nzioka said State House had not foreseen the matter being taken out context by the media. He, however, took responsibility for the confusion.
“I take responsibility because as the PDU, we should have clarified,” he said.
Nzioka, however, dismissed reports that Kenya’s public debt was unmanageable, saying the country’s economy was stable.
He urged the legislature to stick to its role of auditing government projects and let the government undertake its development projects.
The Country’s public debt now stands at Sh5.398trn according to the latest figures released by the Central Bank of Kenya.
Emgwen MP Alexander Kosgey has already drafted legislation to cap public debt at a maximum of Sh6trn under amendments to Public Finance Management Act.