BEIJING, China, May 15 – Two weeks to the launch of the Standard Gauge Railway, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday moved to hit the ground running on the Naivasha to Kisumu stretch of the line.
When he met with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang, he argued for a fast tracking of the processing of the US$3.59 billion needed by the China Exim Bank “so as not to lose momentum,” his Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said.
The next phase of the line past Kisumu to Malaba and on to Kigali was also discussed with President Kenyatta informing the Premier that he had, prior to his trip to China, talked the matter over with his counterparts with the consensus that they send a joint team to China to negotiate the financing.
As for the maiden train ride from Mombasa to Nairobi which President Kenyatta will be taking in a fortnight, it was agreed that it being a “specialised security installation,” China would secure the line through surveillance until such a time as Kenya builds up the capacity.
President Kenyatta also made the case for the speedy release of US$161 million for the Nairobi Western bypass for which a commercial contract was signed last year.
Prime Minister Li committed to a further Sh19.2 billion in a grant to be used for agreed upon purposes over the next four years.
A gesture arising from the elevation of Kenya’s bilateral status to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative relationship” which Esipisu said is the highest possible diplomatic status.
The Chinese Government has also contributed Sh2.2 billion to the drought alleviation efforts and US$5 million to be used in the repatriation of refugees.
China on its part made a case for greater collaboration in aviation and security where counter-terrorism and cyber terrorism are concerned as well as in general defence.
And while President Xi Jinping will not be gracing the launch of the SGR which Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has described as the “largest ever infrastructure project in Africa of the last 100 years”, he will send a special a special envoy, two ministers and a vice-minister.