12 July 2018

Kenya: Govt Tells Workers to Learn from Chinese, Despite Abuse Allegations

The Kenyan government has called on its citizens to "appreciate" the job done by Chinese companies, after workers on the new Nairobi-to-Mombasa railway complained of mistreatment and discrimination.

In recent weeks, Kenyan media have been awash with reports and images of what appears to show Kenyan workers being mistreated by the Chinese builders of the Standard Gauge Railway that was launched in 2017. One image showed dozens of workers lying on their stomachs.

The Kenyan government has promised to take action against those behind the abuses. However, government spokesman Eric Kiraithe says his fellow countrymen's behavior at work is also to blame.

"Even as we talk about the [railway] and the racism and all that, it might be necessary for us as a country to change our work ethic," Kiraithe said.

Kiraithe called on Kenyans working at the railway to learn from the Chinese on how to operate and service it, so they can take over in the future.

"What we are expecting those Kenyans to do, those with an opportunity, is to shift the focus on the challenge at hand," he said. "We are aware as a government that there are forces which are not very friendly to that project."

The Chinese-financed railway has also come under criticism from environmental activists because the train passes through a national park.

According to Kenyan media, the train has hit buffalos and lions. The government said the accidents were "unintentional."

"Right now, they passed the railway line, and there's three roads being proposed through the same Nairobi national park," said Reinhard Bonke of the Friends of Nairobi National Park. "And again, when the railway goes to the park, we have issues like pollution inside the park. We don't know yet, but the issue of poaching can be an issue. All this will lead to the depletion of the park."

The government insists it is satisfied with the plans to protect the animals in the parks and along the railway line. Conservationists say those plans are inadequate.

Kenya

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