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Govt suspends order on compulsory use of SGR for cargo from Mombasa

An cargo train that operates the Nairobi-Mombasa route. Photo/CFM-FILE.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 – NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 6 – The government beat a hasty retreat Thursday night and suspended a controversial order on transportation of cargo from Mombasa to Nairobi by use of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

“The order has been suspended to pave way for stakeholder consultations,” an official said, “there is consensus between the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) on this matter.”

Officials from both government agencies said a joint statement would be issued.

The suspension announced on Tuesday night came hours after the National Assembly directed Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to appear before the Transport Committee on Thursday to explain the directive issued last week, and which was set to take effect on Wednesday.

The directive stipulated that all cargo from the port in Mombasa shall be hauled the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi for clearance.

The directive for the CS to appear was declared on Monday by Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi as he granted a request by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir to suspend House business for MPs to discuss the directive as a matter of national importance.

“The only thing which I can do to make it a bit more serious is to order that the Transport CS appears before the Transport Committee on Thursday at 10am,” Cheboi said.

“I am sure if that is done we shall have achieved two things, that Hon Nassir will have the chance to prosecute his issue for 30 minutes which will be like a precursor to the CS’s appearing.”

Nassir who is also the Chairman of the House Public Investments Committee said the order which takes effect from Thursday will kill the clearing and forwarding businesses, Container Freight Stations, trucking, warehousing and other related businesses employing thousands in the Coast region.

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“It is currently unclear how much railway levy is being charged per tonne of goods transported. There are fears that the final cost of goods will be affected while road transport companies will be affected.”

“I therefore request the Government to provide the latest statistics on the cost and usage of the SGR and clarify who should the SGR exclusively as it is important to have a liberal market where private business persons can chose the mode to transport their goods,” said the Mvita MP.

House Majority Leader Aden Duale, Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali and Minority Deputy Whip Chris Wamalwa supported the request seeking adjournment of all House Business to deliberate on the move by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch told the Speaker to further direct the Committee on Delegated Legislation to probe if KPA and KRA followed the laid down legal channels before they published the directive in local dailies on Friday.

“The directive and the circular are not just monopolistic, but they are also in bad taste. This in my view is an attempt to circumvent the Statutory Instruments Act.”

Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai, Lungalunga MP Khatib Mwashetani said infrastructural development should benefit the areas where the development takes place but sadly, SGR has done the opposite.

“Businesses are dying along the road from Mombasa to Chumvi all the way to Nairobi, towns are dying and businessmen can no longer continue so we are not only talking about transporters,” Nyamai said.

“It is unfair for the government to make the Coast continue to suffer because of a loan from China. Local businesses should not be punished for something that is not their fault,” Mwashetani stated in his contribution.

Minority Leader John Mbadi added; “We are all aware that when the SGR was mooted, the government told us that it will fund its own repayment. The government cannot now force Kenyans to pay for their inability to meet the targets set by its agencies.”

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