Ruto makes a U-turn on SGR, Naivasha Port in reverting of port operations to Mombasa as he had promised during the campaign period.
After his administration declared preparations to move forward with the two multibillion-shilling projects, President William Ruto changed his position on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Naivasha Inland Depot.
Dr. Ruto had referred to the planned renovation of the inland container terminal as a “selfish program to the disadvantage of the coastal people” in the lead-up to the August elections, which Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen confirmed on Thursday.
Even after stirring up controversy regarding the agreement that former president Uhuru Kenyatta got into with Beijing, the Ruto administration is still looking for further Chinese loans in the billions of shillings to expand the SGR line to Malaba.
Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said that the implementation of the projects has “no contradiction” with what Ruto said.
He said this without providing any further explanation.
Immediately after taking over the Transport docket, the CS proceeded to make a public part of the SGR contract in what appeared as an attempt by the new administration to scandalize the multibillion-shilling project.
Murkomen on Thursday traveled from the Nairobi Railway Terminal to the Naivasha facility through the SGR passenger train in the company of Chinese Ambassador Zhou Xingjian.
“The government is keen to develop the Naivasha Inland Container Depot to handle goods destined to various destinations in the country and the region. We are also keen to utilize rail transport, which is fast, safe, and cheaper to enhance transportation of goods and people,” he said.
“In the long run, we would like to complete the connection of the SGR from Suswa to Kisumu through Bomet, Nyamira, parts of Kisii and later to Malaba.”
Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir stated he had no issues with the renovation of the Naivasha Dry Port as long as it won’t harm Mombasa enterprises.
Nassir had hailed Ruto’s declaration of the cancellation of the Naivasha ICD proposal and the return of port operations to Mombasa.
“Every part of the country has to grow economically. The facility in Naivasha is good so long as it is not done at the expense of other regions. As long as there is free trade, there is no problem,” said Nassir.
The Naivasha ICD meant that Mombasa County lost a total of Sh17.4 billion annually to the mandatory transfer of cargo through SGR to Nairobi, a study by the University of Nairobi’s School of Business showed.
A total of 2,987 locals also lost their jobs, and about 25,000 truck drivers and their assistants were directly affected.
Transporting a container to and from Nairobi using the SGR costs Sh50,000, plus KSh5,000 handling fee, Sh25,000 for ferrying the container from the SGR to a nearby CFS, and Sh10,000 empty container return charges.
Prof X.N Iraki of the University of Nairobi said “bastardizing” the dry port in the run-up to the polls was pure politics to appeal to the voters in the Coast region.
He said it was clear that President Ruto was not going to reverse the SGR contract, citing his friendship with his Uganda counterpart Yoweri Museveni as having influenced the decision to extend SGR to Malaba to connect with the neighbouring country’s line.
“It also makes strategic sense to extend SGR to the Uganda border. Remember our railway was originally Uganda railway,” said Prof Iraki.
“Bastardising the Naivasha dry port was politics. The reality is that he has to start creating his legacy. It is also possible that the contract to extend SGR to Malaba was already signed. I had predicted that Ruto would not reverse the SGR contract. The stakes are too high. Did you notice China never talked as that controversy [on the contract] raged?”