Why Government has been ordered to make SGR contract public

President Uhuru Kenyatta launching the SGR on May 31, 20217. [Courtesy, Reuters]

The High Court in Mombasa has ordered the Kenyan Government to make public details of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) contract.

Justice John Mativo said that Kenyans have a right to know the assets used as collateral in securing the SGR loan.

Kenya borrowed up to Sh326 billion from the Chinese Government to build the 480-km railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi. It was later extended to Naivasha, some 120 kilometres away. The Phase 2A of the project cost the taxpayer about Sh150 billion.

The Kenyan Government, in their response to a petition seeking to compel the State to make public details of the SGR contract, said Kenya signed a non-disclosure agreement with the lender.

Transport Principal Secretary Dr Joseph Njoroge said in January 2022 court documents that agreements entered between Kenya and Chinese contractors over the construction of the SGR have non-disclosure clauses.

Through an affidavit, Dr Njoroge said it would be in breach of contractual terms of the agreements if petitioners were supplied with copies of the contract.

“Upon receipt of the request for information from the petitioners (Ms Wanjiru Gikonyo and Khelef Khalifa) Kenya Railways Corporation responded and explained that the contracts of the projects to which information is being requested are between the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Kenya,” he said.

The Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya had filed a petition seeking to have the Government ordered to make public details of the contract.

The petitioners said Kenya had signed numerous secret deals with foreign lenders, yet the citizens have a right to know the assets used as collateral to secure funds for the multi-billion shilling projects.

High Court Judge John Mativo agreed with the petitioners, saying Kenyans have a right to get the information requested by the lobby groups.