President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to launch construction of the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in a fortnight even as Kenyans demand for a bigger stake in the project.
The planned launch of the new phase, from Nairobi to Naivasha, comes at a time when there is growing discontent, especially from the youth that the Chinese are taking up jobs meant for locals.
During yesterday's Youth Summit at State House, Nairobi, speakers sought the Government's intervention to guarantee their involvement in the multi-billion-shilling project.
Narok County residents recently held demonstrations to air similar grievances. There are claims that some of the materials used such as cement are being imported from China while they can be sourced locally.
Deputy State House chief of staff and head of Public Service Nzioka Waita, however, downplayed the concerns.
"There has to be a process of capacity building and skills transfer. Our friends from China are doing just that. You can be assured that Phase IB, which begins from Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Nakuru and Narok Counties, will incorporate the youth from these areas," he said.
Mr Waita urged for patience even as he dismissed claims of exclusion, saying that phase 1A had 30,000 Kenyans, including youths employed on a permanent basis.
He condemned the Narok protests that turned chaotic, saying residents should have used the right channels to have their grievances addressed.
His sentiments were shared by Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki.
"The issues could have been tackled in a civilised manner through negotiations. I will continue to engage the youth, but they should also be realistic," said the CS.
Construction of the second phase of the SGR project has been riddled in controversy, especially on the proposed route through the Nairobi National Park.
Conservationists had opposed the route, arguing that it would interfere with wildlife corridors in the park that is the only of its kind in the world, being next to a big city.
Africa Network for Animal Welfare had proposed that the railway line be built on an elevated track instead of having the line pass through the park.
The lobby proposed that the track passes over the Southern Bypass, following the existing line, or detours from Konza, to Isinya, to Ongata Rongai, to Gataka, Ngong before joining in the Naivasha line.