21 January 2008

Kenya: Railway Suspends Goods Shipment to Uganda

Kampala — THE Kenya-based Rift Valley Railways Company has suspended shipment of goods and cargo to Uganda after furious protesters vandalised a section of the rail link on Friday.

Mr Roy Puffet, the RVR Managing Director said about a kilometer-long tract of the rails had been plucked off at Kibera slum settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi city.

"It is true the railway has been destroyed and as a result, there are 18 train containers of (assorted) cargo and fuel trapped between (Kenya's) Mombasa seaport and Port Bell in Uganda," Mr Puffet said.

The rail damage, which appears to be an act of deliberate economic sabotage for inland countries, came just hours before a Ugandan-bound goods' truck was reportedly torched at Salga near Nakuru town.

Kenya acts as the principal gateway for Uganda and its neighbours - Rwanda and Burundi - to haul export and import commodities and any disruptions on the route, like now, severely hurts the economies of the three landlocked East African countries.

RVR announced at the weekend that they had begun repairing the railway, which will take at least five days to complete. This means that business people can only airlift or transport their products by road, which is already unsafe with reported ambushes.

Traders in Kampala have been shocked by news of extensive destruction of the railway and asked the Uganda government to scale up works for improving infrastructure on the southern route so that they use Tanzania's Mwanza, Tanga and Dar es Salaam seaports to conduct international trade.

"We have already suffered enough as a result of the Kenyan chaos and tampering with the railway is like adding salt to injury," Mr Issa Ssekito, the Spokesman for Kacita said yesterday.

A fortnight ago, Kenyan demonstrators burnt another Ugandan goods' delivery vehicle moments after setting alight a fuel tanker belonging to Petro City Company.

Fatigued by days of running street battles with ruthless police, the Opposition Orange Democratic Movement party announced mid last week that they would start the discreet "economic boycott" to suffocate President Mwai Kibaki's government that controversially returned to office on the back of a widely disputed December 29 poll.

Minister petitions

Following public outcry over the spate of targeted attacks on Ugandan transporters inside Kenya, trade minister Ms Janet Mukwaya wrote to security minister Amama Mbabazi to immediately initiate "consultations" with his Kenyan counterparts since the bloody post-election meltdown in Kenya was crippling Uganda's economy.

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