State downplays SGR staff racism row

Government spokesman Erick Kiraithe. FILE PHOTO
Government spokesman Erick Kiraithe. FILE PHOTO |NMG 

The government has downplayed claims of high-handedness and racism local staff have levelled against the Chinese managers operating the standard gauge railway (SGR) train service.

Instead, government spokesman Erick Kiraithe said the local staff were only undergoing necessary orientation and training to be able to handle the task ahead once the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) hands over the national assets.

“We must all appreciate that the operations of the of a modern train infrastructural system like Madaraka Express in a consistently effective and efficient manner is a profession that calls for military standard discipline,” Mr Kiraithe said.

“The ongoing training of staff, therefore, is not about transferring technical skills only but is aimed at inculcating the right mindset, a set of moral principles and workplace values that will build a foundation for the rail to operate effectively in future.”

But the CRBC managers are not about to hand over the railway service to local staff. They are expected to run it for at least 10 years to recoup their investments, including a Sh327 billion loan for the first phase.

Whereas the government is at hand to protect the individual rights of every Kenyan citizen, Mr Kiraithe said “the rights seeking personalities should shift their focus from short-term diversions to the challenges at hand”.

In May, the CRBC issued its employees with gagging orders barring them from leaking any information about the firm’s activities. The firm has signed a 10-year operation, maintenance and service agreement with Kenya Railways for the Mombasa-Nairobi segment of the SGR line.

The deal also requires the Chinese firm to maintain the equipment and rail tracks according to prescribed manuals and in line with best global industry standards.

The Chinese operator has, however, on a number of occasions been accused of violating Kenyan workers’ rights.

This has prompted investigations by Kenya Railways Corporations. “We wish to assure the public that all the allegations will be judiciously investigated and action will be taken in the best interest of the citizens of Kenya,” said Kiraithe.