RWANDA MOVES FAST TO PREPARE FOR MOMBASA – KAMPALA – KIGALI RAIL LINK
(Posted 10th September 2013)
Following the two tripartite summits between presidents Kagame, Kenyatta and Museveni, during which the East African countries agreed on a host of joint infrastructure and logistics projects to be implemented on the fast track, has Rwanda now announced that they will immediately embark on detailed studies about the proposed rail link which is to connect the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa with Uganda, Rwanda and other hinterland countries.
A team has been put into place since the last summit in Mombasa to look at possible routes for the railway, while also studying the cost of the project, the cost involved in compulsory acquisition of land and the compensation of land owners towards that end. Infrastructure minister Prof. Silas Lwakabamba confirmed that since construction of the new rail link in Kenya was due to commence before the end of the year, Rwanda too had no time to waste but to progress with all due haste.
Notably though, and perhaps as a fallout of the recent expulsion of thousands of people of Rwandan origin from Tanzania, in the process of which much of their property was looted without any visible intervention by Tanzanian security organs, suggesting that the openly committed crimes were sanctioned at high levels of government, as well as the ill considered demand by Tanzania’s president Kikwete that Rwanda ought to negotiate with the killer militias, has the rail project linking Kigali to the Tanzanian town of Isaka gone into silent mode. ‘You cannot expect this to be business as usual when our intelligence is insulted. We cannot and never will negotiate with these terrorists who are hiding in Congo under protection of the UN, the Kinshasa regime and now even Tanzanian troops. In my humble view and in the view of most Rwandans this was an insult of the highest order and showed us that Kikwete either has a hidden agenda or else is woefully misinformed and misguided as to the situation on the ground in Congo and the sentiments of the Rwandan people about the genocide 19 ½ years ago. People of Rwandan descent were driven like livestock from their homes and ran out of Tanzania, many of whom never knew another home. That is ethnic cleansing, that is a revenge act of a man who could not own up to his mistake and move on. It shows his true character. We know we can rely on our friends in Kenya and Uganda when it comes to the railway project, especially Uganda because they also face similar hostile groups who are equally protected in Congo. There are consequences for every action and what is happening now is a broad realignment of a coalition, as you put it, of the willing, ready to implement decisions they feel strongly about and were held back by the constant veto of one. It is like the UN Security Council which is also turned into a lame panel when there are constant threats to use a veto. Now, on a tripartite basis Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya are moving on key issues which have long been blocked. South Sudan is coming on board and Burundi too will follow because we can easily extend that rail line to Bujumbura. There is no point to split our limited resources to build two railway links, one to the Ugandan border and one to Isaka. We as a country have to consider where our long term interests are better taken care of and what happened over the past weeks simply cannot be in our best interest’ contributed a regular source from Kigali in the course of several email exchanges since yesterday when Prof. Lwakabamba made his announcement.
The planned standard gauge railway, from Mombasa via Nairobi, the Ugandan border and Kampala to Kigali is estimated to cost about 5 billion Shillings and will largely be financed by China on condition that Chinese companies be given the contracts and key components of such contracts were already signed up when President Kenyatta recently visited China. Lesson drawn should be watch your mouth and engage brain before uttering nonsense but it is likely to be a lesson wasted on the one who most needs to learn it. Watch this space.