Construction of the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway has been thrown off course following a legal tussle over its environmental impact.
Top officials of the Kenya Railways Corporation and China Bridge Corporation now risk six months in jail for building the railway line through the Nairobi National park.
The two firms are embroiled in a legal battle against an environment conservation lobby group, Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management, and activist Okiya Omtatah, who want their CEOs jailed for continuing with phase 2A of the railway.
There are at least four cases touching the construction of phase 2A, one before the National Environment Tribunal and three in the Environment and Lands Court.
The two firms are in trouble for building the railway through the Nairobi National Park en route to Naivasha.
An application made before the tribunal indicates that there were court orders stopping construction at Tuala, Rankau, Nkoroi, Duka Moja, Suswa and Ngong Hills. The application wants the two firms punished for contempt.
It also emerged that Parliament allegedly sneaked in a law to derail tribunal orders through the Prevention of Torture Act 2017. Mr Omtatah claimed he went to court and had the amendment quashed hence the orders were still alive.
In a reply dated February 5, 2018, China Road claimed there were no orders issued by the tribunal. The company said it only received a letter signed by one JK Owuor.
It also argued that the tribunal orders could not be enforced as there were two appeals filed in the Environment and Lands Court by Kenya Railways challenging them.
Court papers show that Kenya Railways had seven routes to choose from for phase 2A, and settled on a modified savanna route approved by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) after months of negotiations.
According to the analysis from planners, taking the railway through Athi River would have cost Sh84 billion, making it the most expensive option. A Kibera route option was also discarded because it would cost Sh68.4 billion.
The experts had also considered going through the national park from Langata and Karen at a cost Sh62.4 billion. However, KWS vetoed this on the grounds that the areas chosen had a high animal population that would not withstand works on the 16.4km route.