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Clash between Chinese contractor, locals derails SGR construction

A construction worker at work on the SGR Nairobi-Naivasha tunnel on September 16, 2017. File Photo | Francis Nderitu | NMG
A construction worker at work on the SGR Nairobi-Naivasha tunnel on September 16, 2017. File Photo | Francis Nderitu | NMG 

The ongoing construction of the Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line is facing hitches as bad blood between the local Maasai community and the Chinese firm building the second phase of the key infrastructure threaten to boil over.

The early entry of the Chinese contractor at the SGR line before land owners were compensated caused friction with the local community, resulting in further delay of the project as protests by the local community ended with one person shot dead last Saturday.

The victim was among a group of youths who tried to storm the construction site protesting that locals had not benefitted from jobs.

Following the incident, construction stalled once again after a pay dispute with workers who vowed not to return to work until the victim’s family was compensated.

Allow construction to continue

The standoff along the SGR line forced National Land Commission (NLC) chairman, Prof. Muhammad Swazuri, to tour the area on Wednesday to carry out civic and advocacy education on the project among the locals, pleading with them to cooperate so that the project can continue.

Mr Swazuri assured all affected land owners that they would be compensated after valuation of their land is completed.

A spot-check by the Nation revealed the contractor is working on parcels of land whose owners have allowed construction to go on while skipping those where approval has been denied.

Phase 2A of the SGR cuts through Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Nakuru and Narok Counties and covers 120 kilometres.

It is expected to be completed in 36 months at a cost of Sh150 billion.

But work along the railway route has stopped temporarily following a standoff between the community and police over the shooting and killing of the young man at the SGR Section 6 site in Suswa town last week.

On Wednesday, a meeting to resolve wrangles between the community and contractors aborted after the residents walked out in protest as the former demanded Sh10 million compensation over the killing of the man by police manning the site.

“The workers in these sites will not go back to work not until compensation of the man killed by police is paid to the family,” said Mr Alfred Keriale who spoke after the community walked out of a meeting convened by Narok County commissioner Moffat Kangi.

Police probe

However, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) says it has set up an investigations team to look into the shooting of Mr Mapiyai Kiraison.

“The Authority would like to assure Kenyans that speedy investigations will be carried out to establish the truth and ensure that justice is served to the victim, his family and the community in general as mandated by law,” read a letter signed by IPOA principal communications and outreach officer Ms Rosemary Kamau.

IPOA took up the matter after Narok Senator, Ledama Ole Kina, led the family and the Suswa community members to the Authority's offices to protest the killing and demand arrest of the officer involved.

“I went to IPOA to protest after we learned that the police officer was never arraigned in court. According to sources, he was released from police custody the same day and he was transferred to Machakos,” said the Senator.

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