Locals derail work on the new Mai Mahiu railway line, again

Youths from Jikaze IDP camp in Mai Mahiu, Naivasha engage police and workers involved in the construction of the meter-gauge railway line from Mai Mahiu Industrial Park to Longonot town. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Construction of the Sh3.5 billion new meter-gauge railway line linking the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Mai Mahiu to Longonot town has been paralysed yet again.

This was after more than 500 residents of Longonot and Jikaze IDP centre stormed the site of the 24km line demanding jobs and kicked out the workers.

The residents accused the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) of taking them round in circles for over two months and failing to address their grievances.

The demonstration came barely a fortnight after Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui hit out at the contractor for allegedly ignoring residents in job opportunities and vowed to take action.

Joseph Njenga, a resident, accused the contractor of hiring youths from other areas and ignoring locals despite the railway line passing through their farms. “When the SGR works were ongoing we missed out. This time round we shall not sit back as outsiders benefit,” he said.

A senior officer from Kenya Railways, Jonathan Kirwa, admitted that there was a challenge in hiring staff as the real work was yet to start.

“We shall definitely work with the contractor to address this issue,” said Kirwa. He said of the 24km line, they had only acquired 4km where the earth work was currently ongoing as they sorted the issue of compensation.

Meanwhile, tension was high in Kikopey, Gilgil after two communities clashed leaving two women seriously injured. During the incident, an unknown number of cattle were slashed by irate farmers protesting the move by some pastoralists to drive their animals into their farms. Armed police from Gilgil had to intervene and cool tempers.

Trouble started on Monday when the herders attacked and seriously injured the two women who were driving away the cattle from their farms.

Angered by the move, locals gathered and drove the tens of cattle to Gilgil Police Station, arriving at around 10pm, to protest the invasion.

Speaking on phone, Gilgil MP Martha Wangari said a security meeting had been called to resolve the impasse. She said one of the injured women was still in hospital while the other was treated and discharged.

“This is a problem that has lasted in this area for many years. We should respect private property,” she said.