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Raila has always been part of the SGR dream and plans

By Joseph Mutua Ndonga | Apr 29th 2019 | 3 min read

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has come under heavy criticism for accompanying 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 say Raila has been a fierce critic of the SGR and are wondering what changed along the way. It is worth noting that Raila was part of the team that conceived the idea of SGR during his tenure as Prime Minister.

President Mwai Kibaki, who Raila 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 the SGR 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, Raila had a bone to pick with Uhuru after the disputed election. Raila would not give up even after the Supreme Court upheld Uhuru’s victory. He portrayed Uhuru as a failure and punched holes in all Jubilee initiated projects. He said the SGR cost was inflated.

As a matter of fact, Raila was not against SGR, but the alleged inflation of its costs. Uhuru’s camp fought these allegations frantically, insisting that the SGR would be the game changer in the country’s development. The initial budget of Sh227 billion for SGR prepared during the era of Kibaki and Raila 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 money has been 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 not been caught.

Besides Raila, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter also claimed the SGR 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 stealing SGR money. Since the handshake between Raila and Uhuru, the former has 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, Raila and Uhuru must have discussed how the loan would be secured.

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