Uganda, Kenya Sign Deal to Develop Railway Network

by Christopher Kiiza
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The governments of Uganda and Kenya have signed a deal committing the two countries to finance and construct the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in both countries.

Uganda’s Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala made the announcement after the signing of the deal in Mombasa, Kenya on Friday.

“We signed a communique with my Kenya counterpart Cabinet Secretary, Murkomen Kipchumba affirming our commitment to construct the SGR in a co-ordinated manner; Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba by Kenya and simultaneously Uganda constructing Malaba -Kampala & beyond,” said Gen Katumba.

The deal comes after several months of discussions between the ministries of the two nations, according to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Roads and Transport, Murkomen Kipchumba.

“After months of bilateral engagements, consultations and deliberations with my Ugandan Counterpart, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala (Minister of Transport), we have today signed a joint communique between the Government of the Republic of Kenya and the Government of the Republic of Uganda on the financing and development of the Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya and Malaba-Kampala Standard Gauge Railway in Uganda,” he said.

Uganda’s Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala and his Kenyan counterpart, Murkomen Kipchumba signing the joint communique in Mombasa on Friday.

“The signing of this Communique, which took place at the SGR Mombasa Terminus this afternoon, saw the two countries commit to undertaking the SGR extension project as a regional project under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Initiative,” he added.

Furthermore, the two countries also agreed to the construction of the connecting sections concurrently and fast-track the securing of financing for these SGR sections.

Additionally, the two countries will consider constructing supporting infrastructure such as dry ports and industrial parks to enhance service levels and spur growth of towns along the SGR routes by attracting investments and other economic activities.

Uganda’s Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala and his Kenyan counterpart, Murkomen Kipchumba showing the joint communique signed in Mombasa on Friday.

In the agreement, Uganda has committed to ensure that SGR is extended to the border with Rwanda, South Sudan and DRC Congo as soon as possible to further improve viability and attractiveness for financing of the SGR along the Northern Corridor.

DELAYS IN SGR CONSTRUCTION

SGR is part of the Northern Corridor Integration Project, intending to stretch from Mombasa through Nairobi in Kenya, reaching Kampala in Uganda, and further extending to connect Kigali in Rwanda and Juba in South Sudan. The project aims to significantly cut down the transportation time for goods between Mombasa and Kampala from about 14 days to just two days upon its successful completion.

The Project was adopted in 2014, by the East Africa Presidents who launched a multibillion SGR project meant to modernise the traditional railway transport system to boost economic growth by facilitating a faster movement of goods across borders.

In March 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya inaugurated the first passenger train on the newly completed Mombasa-Nairobi SGR route, while his Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli did the same in April 2017.

Uganda had promised to kick start the project in June 2015, but nearly a decade later, the project has not registered success.

The Chinese company, China Harbour Engineering Company Limited which Uganda had hired for the SGR project was unable to secure funds, causing delays in the project’s commencement.

The Government has since walked away from the said company.

The Chinese firm has since been replaced with Yapi Merkezi, a Turkish firm.

Yapi Engineering Merkezi will construct the SGR for Uganda from Malaba (Kenya) up to Kampala for phase I, and proceed with phase II, linking up, Kasese and also south to the Rwanda border.

In Phase III, the construction will extend from Tororo to Gulu, then connect to Nimule to enable South Sudan to begin its construction from Nimule to Juba. Additionally, there will be construction from Gulu, linking to DR Congo.

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