More bottlenecks emerge in ambitious East African rail link


Chinese nationals charged for bribery

By Nsikan Ikpe


More bottlenecks have reportedly emerged on the way of the very ambitious trans-East African rail link that sources say would eventually connect Kenya to landlocked South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia, and stretching on to the Indian Ocean.

Already, 3 Chinese nationals are presently facing trial in Mombassa on charges of bribery and racketeering related to the first phase of the scheme which presently connects Mombasa and Nairobi.

The $3bn Chinese-funded railway project is said to be Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since the attainment of independence by East Africa’s largest economy in 1963.

The Chinese nationals are said to have attempted bribing investigators working on an alleged ticketing scam in the railway project.

They are: Li Gen, head of transport, Li Xiaowu, security manager, and Sun Xin, staff member. They reportedly work for the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

As much as $10,000 was reportedly being stolen by the accused daily from ticket sales, investigators say, even as officers were allegedly offered a $5,000 bribe to cover up the discovery, a statement by the prosecutors office revealed.

Previously, there had also been a few other scandals relating to the service since its formal coming on stream in May 2017.

Upon appearing before a judge in Mombasa, they pleaded not guilty to the charges but the court ruled that they remain in custody until their bail hearing is heard on 30 November.

Earlier in August, government officials were accused of paying for false land compensation claims that amounted to more than $2m. The sums were reportedly paid to private firms which claimed they owned land that was being affected by the new service.

There have also been the equally now-familiar allegations of racism and discrimination against Kenyans on the team by their Chinese managers.

A colossal $100m loss was also recorded in its first year of operation even as conservationists have equally faulted the service on the grounds that the line runs through both the Nairobi and Tsavo National Parks.

On the flip side however, proponents of the scheme say that its broader implications for boosting travel, trade and commerce in Kenya in particular and East Africa in general had made the investment quite worthwhile.

The line at the moment runs between the port city of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi, even as construction was completed 18 months ahead of schedule.



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