11 February 2008

Kenya: Railway Transport Also Paralysed

Kampala — The post-election violence in the neighbouring state of Kenya has brought activity on the rift valley line from Mombasa to Kampala to a standstill.

This means that rail as an alternative means of hauling goods (import and export) from Mombasa to Kampala and vise versa is not possible at this point.

A lot of bulk cargo including fuel comes to and exports like coffee leave Uganda by rail. This situation is hurting the business fraternity in Uganda many of whom rely on the rail to deliver their goods from the all important port of Mombassa.

According to the Public Relations Manager for Rift Valley Railways in Uganda, Ms. Zalwango, civilians have vandalised some parts of the railway and erected roadblocks at some others, making operations increasingly hard.

"This dire situation has not been helped by the Ugandan vessels which have collapsed, disabling transport on Lake Victoria using the Kisumu-Portbell route," added Zalwango.

On Wednesday, the Kenya Ports Authority announced that they would depend on trucks to transport containers to Nairobi due to delays experienced in the transport system of the railway from the Mombassa port.

But the Rift Valley Railways Managing Director, Mr. Roy Puffett, defended his firm mentioning that the rail was playing a leading role in clearing the backlog caused by the political wrangles in the country.

"We have even introduced more than 12 new shuttles between Kilindini and Embakasi ICD as part of our efforts to accelerate the cargo off take," Puffett was quoted as saying in the press last week.

In a statement released by Robert Louw, head of RVR operations and business, the company, which won the Uganda-Kenya railways concession, has lost Ksh387.5m (Ush9.3b) due to post-election violence.

Ksh15m was lost daily for 25 days, which added up to Kshs375m whereas Ksh12.5m was spent on repairing the Kibera slum line which was vandalised by protesters last month.

Neighboring Kenya descended into violence late last year over a disputed Presidential election which the opposition alleges, was rigged by President Mwai Kibaki, the effects of which have been deeply felt by its dependant neighbours like Uganda and Rwanda.

By last Friday, the two warring parties had agreed to come up with a united campaign against violence in order to create a comfortable atmosphere for further negotiations to solve the crisis that has riddled the formerly peaceful East African nation since the Dec 27. 2007 presidential polls.

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