Raila steers clear of unending debate on SGR

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, his wife mama Ida Odinga, East Africa Legislative Assembly MP Oburu Oginga and Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo during the 60th anniversary of the late Nehemiah Oyoo in Gem Siaya County on May 3rd 2019. The deceased was the father to Raila's wife. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday steered clear of the stalled extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to Kisumu and instead asked Kenyans to shun ethnicity.

Raila, who visited Nyanza region for the first time since he and President Kenyatta returned from China, also avoided politics.

Before departure, Raila had said that they would discuss funding for the extension of the SGR to Kisumu. But later State House clarified that funding for SGR Phase Two was not part of the China trip.

Yesterday, the ODM leader said: “We need to unite our people in diversity and shun ethnic divisions. We have a responsibility to make our nation’s diversity real without prejudice.” Raila was speaking in Gem, Siaya County, during a church service to mark the 60th death anniversary of his father-in-law Nehemiah Oyoo.

Local leaders and residents said they expected Raila to address the SGR issue, since he is the one who made the promise just before the trip to China.

“I was keenly monitoring his speech in Gem because as our leader, I knew he came to explain to us the fate of the rail line. As a business community, we have been waiting for the SGR with excitement,” said Kisumu businessman Ken Owade.

A senator who did not want to be named, told the Sunday Standard there have been huge expectations ever since the ODM leader travelled with President Kenyatta to China.

“When Raila spoke in Nyakach ahead of his trip to China, he told us he would be travelling with the President and that one of the agenda for the trip was the SGR. When he returned, our people expected something from him,” said the legislator.

Before leaving for China, Raila made a stopover in Sondu, Kisumu County and said: “I will be part of the delegation that will accompany the President to the Asian country next week. The new SGR line will extend from Naivasha to Narok, Bomet, Sondu and finally Kisumu. It will help revive the Kisumu inland port whose fortunes have dwindled due to the collapse of the dilapidated railway.”

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita said the SGR must reach Kisumuand asked the National Treasury to look for alternative finances.

“The Treasury must put a budget for the extension of the SGR to Kisumu, even without involving China. Other major projects across the country have been built using the taxpayer’s money,” said Nyamita.

Raila yesterday said he and President Kenyatta were committed to promote a more development conscious country.

“This is why we have started a new movement to create a borderless community bound by same cultural values as is emboldened in our national anthem,” he said.