I have been following with keen interest the debate surrounding the recent visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga to China. There were two reasons why the trip was bound to generate varied reactions and create room for speculation. First, there was no official communication about the departure and the purpose of this visit. Secondly, the remarks made by Raila on the eve of trip that he would accompany Uhuru to borrow money for construction of the second phase of SGR from Naivasha and Kisumu. Raila would even give details of the routes and towns where the new railway line would pass. So, when reports indicated that China has rejected Kenya’s request for Sh368 billion SGR loan, Kenyans had a reason to believe this story.
Raila has been working closely with Uhuru since the handshake and so assumption was that he could not have talked about the agenda of the trip before discussing it with the President. Raila has maintained that he is still leader of opposition. On his part, Uhuru would always maintain that Raila was not part of the government. He is in opposition. We only agreed to work together for the sake of peace and unity of all Kenyans. Therefore, the argument that Raila is running government is neither here nor there. Again, let me say this: There were high chances that Raila could have travelled to China in his capacity as Africa Union Special Representative for Infrastructure. In his AU docket, there is a component of developing projects in his motherland.
The meeting in China was held behind closed doors. So, nobody knows what the duo discussed with their host. Yes, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, who briefed the media from China, revealed that China has offered Kenya a loan of about Sh40 billion to rebuild the old railway from Naivasha to Kisumu and to border town of Malaba. This would clear the way for rail transport of cargo imported by Kenya and her neighbouring countries. However, the CS would not respond to whether China turned down the request for Sh368 billion.
Therefore, the reports that the two leaders returned home empty-handed were misleading and intended to drive a false political narrative that they did not wish the country well. Notably, apart from Sh40 billion to reconstruct the old line, Uhuru signed a deal to build Kenya’s first Expressway from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to James Gichuru Road in Westlands, and secured market for avocado from Kenya. He also secured money to build the Konza City in Machakos, dry port and industrial park in Naivasha.
Some of these projects including SGR were conceived during the reign of Grand Coalition government. However, former President Mwai Kibaki and Raila, then prime minister, left power before their efforts to secure funding for the projects bore fruits. Back to Uhuru’s recent visit, he had made a similar visit to China last year. When the agenda of funding the second phase of SGR was put on table, he declined to sign the deal. This is until when China would agree to bear the cost of the half of the project money. In a response, China President Xi Jinping assured him he will discuss the matter with relevant arms of the government and give feedback during the next Belt and Road Forum. In light of this, I tend to believe China rejected Kenya’s request. Finally, it should be noted Uhuru and Raila were in China to attend a meeting of 80 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe who are the beneficiaries of China loan monies. More than 40 heads of State attended. Therefore, it is wrong to create the impression that it is only Uhuru who was there to ‘beg’ for money. Joseph Ndonga, Political Analyst and Blogger, Nairobi
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Free mosquito nets difficult to hang
A recent editorial in The Standard commemorating world Malaria Day tended to blame some rural folks who, after being supplied with mosquito repellent nets have put them to other uses like fishing, fencing of vegetable gardens and shielding chicks from hawks and eagles. I believe the reason is due to the way the mosquito nets have been sewn. Unlike the conventional nets sold in supermarkets and other clothing stores which come with a metal ring, around which the top of the net is suspended, the free treated ones come with six inch pieces of cloth sewn on the four corners of the net.
They thus become problematic to hang, since one has to drill four holes in the bedroom wall and fix nails or screws, using cement, on which to tie the four ends of the net. The conventional ones, with a metal ring, only requires one supporting nail or screw fixed in the middle of the ceiling - hence more user-friendly than the free one supplied by the government and NGOs. Aggrey Kulali, Mombasa.