Uhuru, Raila to go for Sh368bn SGR loan in China

Saturday April 20 2019

Raila in Kisumu

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses a crowd during a stopover rally at Sondu market in Kisumu County on April 20, 2019. PHOTO | VICTOR RABALLA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VICTOR RABALLA
By VICTOR RABALLA
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Politician Raila Odinga has said he will accompany President Uhuru Kenyatta to China next week to seek funds for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader said on Saturday that the Beijing visit will pave way for a Sh368 billion loan.

This, he said, will help revive the Kisumu inland port whose fortunes have dwindled due to the collapse of the dilapidated railway.

"I will be part of the delegation that will accompany the President to the Asian country next week. The new SGR line will extend from Naivasha to Narok, Bomet, Sondu and finally Kisumu," Mr Odinga told a crowd during a stopover rally at Sondu market in Kisumu on Saturday.

He was on his way to a funeral in Wanda village, Nyakach Sub-county.

ECONOMIC ZONE

The plans come after a high-powered delegation, comprising officials from Treasury, Kenya Railways Corporation, the Transport ministry and the State Law Office, met last week to hammer out details of the borrowing ahead of the official signing.

Mr Odinga, the African Union's High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, noted that the completion of the SGR will have a huge impact on the lakeside city.

The underutilised port will be opened up, he said, noting its potential to boost the county's economy.

"We are going to establish a special economic zone in Kisumu and make the city the hub of East Africa," he said.

Mr Odinga also noted that the infrastructure will provide employment opportunities for thousands of Kenyans.

UNDERUTILISATION

In the Kenya Ports Authority's performance report for 2018, the port established in 1901 handled only 12,000 tonnes of fertiliser exported to Uganda, 240 tonnes of Magadi soda, 108 tonnes of heavy machinery headed to Tanzania and two tonnes of assorted cargo and bottle-filling machines.

In terms of imports, the port handled only 1,100 tonnes of sugar from Uganda and 50 tonnes of heavy trucks from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, pointing to its underutilisation as a key connector of the three East Africa countries.

President Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni recently affirmed the two countries’ commitment to sticking to the original plan of stretching the SGR all the way to Kampala.

The two countries had been differing over financing for the cross-border SGR, with China Exim Bank insisting that Kampala get Kenya’s commitment to build the section from Kisumu to Malaba before Uganda can secure funding for the line running from Kampala to the common border.