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Uhuru off to Mauritius before Chinese meet

By Roselyne Obala and Cyrus Ombati | Apr 10th 2019 | 3 min read

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday left the country for a four-day state visit to Mauritius, according to a confirmation from State House.

The President’s communication’s team is yet to release an official itinerary of the trip, but the Mauritian government said on its website that the visit would be used to consolidate trade between both countries.

“The President will end his visit on April 12, after attending a series of events hosted by the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” read the communication released by Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

The President is expected to jet back into the country on Friday. Upon returning, he will next week go to Kisumu to open the Fourth Legislative Summit.

The summit brings together leaders from the Senate, the County Assemblies Forum, Cabinet Secretaries, diplomats and development partners. It is supposed to review the challenges facing the Senate and county parliaments.

The theme of this year’s summit is: “Accelerating devolution, assessing the progress and addressing the gaps in policy and legislation”.

According to Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, the summit’s steering committee chairman, discussions at the meet will revolve around good governance and accountability, and the importance of regional blocs. 

Secure loan

On April 25, the President will be in Beijing, China, hoping to secure a Sh380 billion loan for the Naivasha-Kisumu phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Esther Koimett, the Principal Secretary for Transport, and acting Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Maingi, spent the better part of last month negotiating for the loan with the Chinese government.

This is the first trip the President will be making to China this year.

In September last year, Uhuru was met with disappointment in Shanghai during the International Import-Expo, when Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly declined to approve the loan. 

President Jinping is said to have asked Uhuru to conduct a commercial viability study on the whole SGR project, and also secure a financing deal with Uganda.

The decision took the Kenyan delegation by surprise, considering that the financier, China Communications Construction Company, had agreed to proceed with the project a month before.

The China trip comes after a two-day visit to Kenya by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. He spent his time in Mombasa with Uhuru discussing bilateral trade ties.

However, Kenya’s decision to offer Mr Museveni the Naivasha dry port, which sparked mixed reactions from Kenyans, seemed to have enticed Museveni into supporting the project.

The two heads of state held a joint Press conference, where Museveni renewed his commitment to an SGR co-financing deal with Kenya.

There has been simmering tension over the financing of the cross-border rail project between the two counties.

China Exim Bank has insisted that Kampala has to get a commitment from Kenya that the latter will build the section between Kisumu to Malaba, before the former gets any funding.

Kenya is expected to complete the second phase of the project that runs from Nairobi to Naivasha by mid this year. It will cost Sh170 billion.

James Macharia, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, said there was need to complete the feasibility study, not just for Naivasha to Kisumu, but also the whole rail from Mombasa to Kisumu, so that its commercial viability can be established.

The first phase of the project from Mombasa to Nairobi was completed last year. It cost Sh380 billion.

The Naivasha-Kisumu line will cost at least Sh360 billion before the country embarks on another 107-kilometre line connecting Kisumu to the border town of Malaba. The estimated cost for that line is Sh170 billion.

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