Kenya’s Sh327 billion standard gauge railway (SGR) has all the features of a mega project that, among other things, was expected to attract the attention of jobseekers looking for opportunity to start and grow in their careers.
But reports that Kenyan SGR workers are treated badly to the extent they are claiming racism, are as disturbing as they are unfortunate.
It has not helped that the government spokesman chose to wade into the matter in a lacklustre fashion that has only helped inflame anger against the Chinese operators. The futile attempt to bury Nairobi’s head in the sand in the wake of such serious claims of rights abuses that are unconstitutional and life-threatening is most insensitive.
It must be clear to the SGR operator, China Road and Bridge Company (CRBC), that its operations in Kenya can only continue in compliance with local laws, rules and ethics.
Kenyan authorities must delve deeper into these claims in order to protect the integrity of this project that taxpayers have so dearly funded. Nothing less than a transparent and painstaking investigation and punishment of those found culpable will be acceptable.
It would be callous for the government to ignore or downplay the distress calls by genuine workers who are offering services for rightful gains, not favours. Every worker deserves fair treatment.