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Why China said no to Uhuru’s Naivasha-Kisumu SGR quest



Kenya SGR Project: There was no doubt that President Uhuru Kenyatta was incensed when he launched the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR at Suswa last year. On the launching day, the Daily Nation had carried one of the boldest headlines that exposed the nakedness of the SGR.

‘Railway to nowhere!’ the paper had declared. This utterly annoyed the president. His anger, though, was evidence of frustrations that the president had faced and the embarrassment he was coming face to face with following the failure of his government to secure a multi-billion loan from China that would have extended the line to Kisumu.

Amidst the president’s anger, details emerged on why China refused to lend the government a fresh loan of Sh. 368 for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway line.

The fresh multi-billion loan was supposed to facilitate the construction of the SGR phase between Naivasha and Kisumu.

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According to reports, China refused to give out the loan after the government failed to show how viable the project would be. Reports also said that China was not willing to give out the loan as a grant or loosen their tight conditions on it.

This was despite the Uhuru team agreeing to allow China to operate and run the railway line until such a time when could recover all the monies spent on the project during a visit to China early last year.

SGR to end in Naivasha after China says no to Uhuru

The failure to secure the loan left an egg on the face of the president. It also meant that the SGR would terminate at Suswa also dubbed by the Nation at Uhuru’s anger as ‘Nowhere’.

In an effort to salvage the project which has so far consumed hundreds of billions of money, the government has announced plans to link it with the old railway line that  currently connects to Eldoret, Kisumu and Malaba.

Linking the two railway lines is now expected to consume an additional Sh. 40 billion. Currently, the old railway line is situated some 43 kilometres from where the SGR will terminate.

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The SGR project has been one of Kenya’s most controversial projects. It’s viability and cost have regularly been put to question. So far, the SGR line between Nairobi and Mombasa which is in operation has raked in losses of over Sh. 10 billion.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had asked for half of the money to be given as a grant and the balance be in a loan with more relaxed conditions. And, though Kenya accepted to allow the Chinese to build, run and hand it over once they recoup their money, the Chinese reportedly insisted on proof that the SGR will be viable. Nairobi asked for the grant to be given as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, officials said. The Chinese, though, insisted on collateral, something Nairobi had gone to Beijing to avoid,” a report that appeared in a local daily on the Kenya SGR Project said.

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