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Uganda hails China’s Sh860 billion loan for E.Africa railway

Some of the trains that will begin operation in June 1st. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Some of the trains that will begin operation in June 1st. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Uganda has welcomed China’s ‘‘generous’’ Sh860billion loan to three East African countries for the construction of a hi-speed standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Kigali.

Uganda Works and Transport minister Monica Azuba welcomed China’s Sh370 billion loan to Kenya for the Naivasha-Malaba section saying Uganda had also sought Sh236.5 billion for the 273kilometre Malaba-Kampala section.

“Construction of the 273 kilometre standard gauge railway from Malaba to Kampala is starting this year. Not expected but starting,” she said in a tweet posted on the ministry’s website.

The comments follow President Uhuru Kenyatta’s disclosure that China’s Exim Bank had agreed to inject Sh370 billion in the Naivasha-Malaba railway which is expected to be constructed at the same time with the Malaba-Kampala line for the next 40 months.

While China Road and Bridge Construction is undertaking Kenya’s second phase from Nairobi to Naivasha, Uganda has contracted China Harbour Engineering Company to build the Malaba-Kampala line.

The disclosures come hardly a week before Kenya commissions the Sh327 billion Mombasa-Nairobi SGR project which will see passenger travel time between the two cities reduce from 10 hours by bus to four and a half by train, while cargo transit time will reduce to eight hours from the traditional four days by truck.

Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Kenya James Kimonyo haas confirmed that the country is seeking Sh123.5 billion from China’s Exim Bank for construction of their section to Kigali.

Ms Azuba said that they had learnt tough lessons from Kenya’s experience and had embarked on land acquisition in the past one year and had secured 60 per cent of the land and cleared it for construction.

She added that all affected persons had been compensated with structures found on the way demolished, a detailed engineering plan prepared and new roads were now underway to ensure the project runs smoothly.

“We are working with Kenya to synchronise construction of SGR and we salute our partners for their cooperation. We have also agreed that the Mombasa-Kampala SGR will be run by the same operator upon completion,” she said.