Make the SGR Reach Kisumu or The Handshake is Off, Nyanza Leaders Ultimatum to UhuRao

President Uhuru Kenyatta and HE Raila Odinga at a past event. (Picture FILE)

It started with Embakasi East MP Babu Owino whining on twitter- “I smell a rat,” he screamed.

Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s camp is increasingly uneasy over the failed extension of the standard gauge railway from Naivasha to Kisumu. The failure to get a Sh368 billion Chinese loan to extend the line has caused disquiet among Raila’s supporters.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila, the AU’s High Representative for Infrastructure went to China specifically to request the loan to complete the line.

But China said no and instead offered a much smaller loan of Sh400 million to upgrade the existing, 120-year-old railway line to Kisumu. It would connect to the SGR in Naivasha.

MPs and opinion leaders from Raila’s backyard have since made sentiments that paint a picture of a disillusionment and a feeling they were shortchanged by the Jubilee administration.

“Let the government find money from elsewhere to complete the railway from Naivasha to Kisumu. The lakeside city should not be isolated from the multi-billion project,” Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association Secretary General Richard Ogendo said,

Before his departure for China, Raila had confidently announced that the new SGR line would unlock Nyanza’s untapped economic potential.

He told his supporters that the China trip was crucial in securing the loan.

“I will be part of the delegation that will accompany the President to the Asian country next week. The new SGR line will extend from Naivasha to Narok, Bomet, Sondu and finally Kisumu,” the former Prime Minister said.

The opposition leader had made a dramatic U-turn from being a fierce critic of the SGR to a staunch defender after the handshake with Uhuru on March 9 last year.

On April 20, shortly before the China trip, Raila spoke glowingly of SGR dividends in Nyakach, Kisumu county. He spoke in the vernacular.

He said the project would ease trade within the East Africa region through the revival of the Kisumu inland port.

“It is Raila himself who told us that his handshake with Uhuru would bring development to our region that has economically been marginalized for many years,” an ODM MP protested. He declined to be quoted for fear of being seen as fighting the handshake.

Raila quietly returned to the country on Tuesday while unconfirmed reports indicate his ‘brother President Kenyatta returned a day later on Wednesday night.

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita said the government should swiftly find alternative funding for final Naivasha-Kisumu SGR link.

“The SGR from Mombasa to Naivasha is built by taxpayers’ money. It does not make economic sense if the railway ends in Naivasha. It must reach Kisumu as we were promised. Our people are eager for this project.”

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga confirmed there is anxiety in the region over the project but expressed confidence that all is not lost.

“It is good that the government has announced its intention to rehabilitate the old meter railway. That is welcome because it will serve as an alternative to the SGR,” Wanga said.

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