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You are too blind to see my efforts, says Uhuru

By Graham Kajilwa | December 18th 2019

SGR train operators prepare for take-off from Nairobi to Naivasha after launch of freight train. Right, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese special envoy Wang Yong inspect a freight train at the SGR Nairobi terminus. [Phillip Orwa and PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has lamented about the harsh assessment of his administration’s performance, regretting that some of its achievements have not been acknowledged.

The president, who spoke at the launch of the Syokimau Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) freight services, appeared disappointed over the bad publicity his government was receiving.

He cited the recent launch of SGR services to Naivasha from Nairobi in October, which was highly criticised and branded the “train to nowhere”.

“This is a problem of lack of vision. We forget that when the railway started from Mombasa to Nairobi, there was no such thing as Nairobi. Nairobi was created as a function of the railway line that was supposed to be heading to Uganda,” Uhuru said.

The line from Nairobi to Naivasha terminates in Suswa and was funded by Chinese government at a cost of Sh150 billion. Kenya is banking on this line to increase connectivity with neighbouring countries like Uganda and Rwanda.

“And I told you then, commencement of this railway does not mean that because there is nothing, there will be nothing tomorrow. Today we now have an Inland Container Depot (ICD) in that so-called nowhere you were talking about,” he added.

Uhuru said the ICD would be serving two trains a day, with cargo destined to neighbouring countries.

“As we stand today, we already have commitments from two shipping lines who will be taking cargo direct from Mombasa to Naivasha, where our neighbours will collect cargo,” he said.

The President said as a result of the SGR project, an industrial park was being set up in Naivasha.

He noted that there was already a commitment from one investor who would be opening a new factory in Naivasha next year, noting that there were many others who had expressed interest to set up operations as a result of the railway.

“These are jobs for our people,” he said.

He said the launch of the operations at the Naivasha ICD was a step in the right direction since the facility would make Kenya have improved interconnectivity by taking cargo closer to the people not only in Kenya but also neighbouring countries.

“It also boosts our cargo handling capacity and will not only help relieve pressure on the port of Mombasa but will also take the cargo closer to Uganda, South Sudan and all our neighbours by a further 120 kilometres from Nairobi,” he said.

Uhuru said as result of the SGR line from Nairobi to Mombasa, the country had recorded the highest bookings ever in Mombasa due to the ease of movement of people.

The president said with SGR, service delivery had improved significantly with a decongested Mombasa Port, reduced time for freight transportation and enhanced delivery of transit cargo.

“This Madaraka Express service train, and activities at Nairobi inland container depot, has facilitated the handling of more than 6.8 million tonnes of cargo between Mombasa and Nairobi,” he said.

He added that there was no doubt that SGR was a game changer, as it had sparked development of industrial parks, logistics and commercial hubs as well as special economic zones, which he said would attract further foreign investments and boost business between Kenya and her neighbours.

“My administration will soon commence works on the restoration of the rail section 2b that will extend to Malaba via Kisumu from Mombasa... Together, all these initiatives will improve, in a significant way, Kenya’s position in the World Bank ease of doing business index and therefore make our country the investment destination of choice,” he said.

He noted that while Kenya seemed to have leaned more towards China for development projects, his administration was open to creating ties with any other country as well.

“We will not only just work with China, we will work with the world, and that is the understanding that we have. Both our countries are firm believers in multi-laterals, our ability to trade and invest across the world, without hindrance,” he said.

He added: “I believe we will continue to forge the basis of not only stronger partnership between Kenya and China, but also much stronger Kenya-China bond with the rest of the world, where all our people who are committed to multi-literalism share prosperity of a win-win situation.”

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