Opposition leaderÂ RailaÂ OdingaÂ hasÂ come under heavy criticism for accompanyingÂ President Uhuru Kenyatta to China. The anger was provoked by reports the President had gone to to seal a deal for Sh368 billion to construct the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway from Naivasha to Kisumu.
Critics say we are struggling to repay the loans previously secured for this project, so we do not have to borrow more money. They sayÂ RailaÂ hasÂ beenÂ a fierce critic of theÂ SGRÂ and are wondering what changed along the way. It is worth noting thatÂ RailaÂ wasÂ partÂ of the team that conceived the idea ofÂ SGRÂ during his tenure as Prime Minister.
President Mwai Kibaki, whoÂ RailaÂ worked with, also believed that when completed, the project would be a key driver of our economy. Though the negotiations were at an advanced stage, the two leaders left office before actualising theÂ SGRÂ dream.
When Uhuru Kenyatta won the 2013 presidential election, he assured Kenyans he would not abandon this project. He renewed talks with China, which saw him secure a loan to build the first phase from Mombasa to Nairobi. He did not alter the agreement signed by his predecessors, which stated that the tender would be awarded to a Chinese contractor.
It should be remembered that at that time,Â RailaÂ had a bone to pick with Uhuru after the disputed election.Â RailaÂ would not give up even after the Supreme Court upheld Uhuruâ€™s victory. He portrayed Uhuru as a failure and punched holes in all Jubilee initiated projects. He said theÂ SGRÂ cost was inflated.
As a matter of fact,Â RailaÂ was not againstÂ SGR, but the alleged inflation of its costs. Uhuruâ€™s camp fought these allegations frantically, insisting that theÂ SGRÂ would be the game changer in the countryâ€™s development. The initial budget of Sh227 billion forÂ SGRÂ prepared during the era of Kibaki andÂ RailaÂ only covered the construction costs.
It did not include some components. However, let us not get things wrong. I am not saying the lords of corruption did not take advantage of this project to dip their hands into public coffers. Reports indicate that moneyÂ hasÂ beenÂ stolen and what Kenyans wish for is to see the thieves punished. And yes, some of them are known to be smart, perhaps that is why they have notÂ beenÂ caught.
BesidesÂ Raila, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter also claimed theÂ SGRÂ project was being used as a means to steal public fund. The President did not take these allegations lightly and at some point challenged the MP to record statements with the DCI.
Uhuru promised action against anyone found stealingÂ SGRÂ money. Since the handshake betweenÂ RailaÂ and Uhuru, the formerÂ hasÂ remained true to his words, which is to help the President to transform Kenyans' lives.
His commitment to fight mega corruption and build a united Kenya is beyond reproach. Before the trip to China,Â RailaÂ and Uhuru must have discussed how the loan would be secured.