PRESIDENT Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday said there will be no turning back on the construction of the Sh327 billion standard gauge railway.
Flanked by his entire Cabinet, Uhuru said he would not allow the commercial interests of a few businessmen to derail the project. He said he personally visited China last July and pleaded with the government to assist Kenya financially and technically to build the Mombasa to Malaba railway.
"The standard gauge railway project must and will go ahead for us to achieve our development agenda," said the president told the press at State House Nairobi after a cabinet meeting yesterday. He termed it as the single biggest investment in East Africa in the last 50 years.
"Too often in our country these days, the very notion of economic progress, such as we are working to achieve, is persistently threatened by conflict sparked and fueled by commercial interest groups, be they local or international," said Uhuru.
The president declined to name the businessmen who want to derail the project as they are well known. "Their commercial interests do not supersede the interests of this country," said Uhuru.
The president maintained that due process was followed in awarding the tender to China Roads and Bridges Company. "What we know is that we have followed all laws of our country, we have followed all laws of China," the President stated. He said all those with information on questionable aspects can go and testify in parliament, or pay him a visit. "There comes an hour when the noise must stop, and the work must begin. We are at that hour," said Uhuru.
He said the project will reduce freight transportation charges from the present $0.20 per tonne-kilometre to about $0.083. It will reduce journey times from 30 hours to 8 hours.
The President added that the Exim Bank of China is providing a commercial loan of US$1.6 billion and a concessional loan of $1.63 billion, totalling $3.23 billion dollars, for Phase I that will run from Mombasa to Nairobi. He said the Kenyan government will purchase the land where the railway will pass.
Officials of China Roads and Bridges yesterday failed to appear for their appointment with the parliamentary committee. Reportedly they may now come next week.
The Public Investment Committee, chaired by Adan Keynan, and the Transport committee, chaired by Maina Kamanda, are presently probing the deal.
Nandi Hill MP Alfred Keter has repeatedly criticized the standard gauge project saying the award was not above board. He has denied accusations that he is being funded by disgruntled businessmen.