Kenyans Fear Chinese-Backed Railway Is Another ‘Lunatic Express’

NAIROBI, Kenya — With sloping, charcoal-gray walls that resemble the elegant curves of a luxury car, Nairobi’s sleek new railway station, built by China, looks more like an airport terminal reserved for wealthy Kenyans and their private jets.

Given the price tag, it might just as well be.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government spent $4 billion on a 300-mile railway connecting the capital to the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, the most expensive infrastructure project since Kenya’s independence 54 years ago and one-fifth of its national budget.

Eager to portray it as a major achievement ahead of national elections in August, Mr. Kenyatta opened the so-called Standard Gauge Railway last Wednesday. But the fanfare was overshadowed by a concern that has been snowballing for months, filling many Kenyans with mild terror: How can the country repay its monstrous debt to China?

China’s Eximbank accounts for about 90 percent of the Nairobi-Mombasa project. The loan has already pushed the Kenyan debt above 50 percent of output, and imports of Chinese supplies and materials required to build the railway are making people anxious about Kenya’s worsening trade imbalance with China.

Ken Mugane, a Nairobi businessman who went on a test ride a few days before it opened officially, said the train was impressive, echoing widespread opinion that it would improve trade and reduce congestion. The Express service cuts travel time by about half — to five hours from 10.

But very little of it conjured an image of Kenya, he said, except maybe for the landscape. “It needs to look like it’s ours,” he said. “After all, we’re going to pay for it through our noses, aren’t we?”

Small details seemed designed to remind Kenyans that the project wasn’t a free ride, he joked. Pamphlets were in Chinese. Some staff members wore uniforms of red and gold — the colors of China’s flag. Even the music on the train wasn’t Kenyan, he complained.

The biggest surprise, Mr. Mugane said, was seeing a sculpture of Mao Zedong at the Mombasa station. (It was actually of Zheng He, a 15th-century Chinese explorer who sailed to East Africa.) The man putting it on a plinth was Chinese, Mr. Mugane noted. “Even that wasn’t being done by a Kenyan,” he said ruefully.

Despite such misgivings, Kenya wouldn’t have had its first new railway for more than a century – the last one was built by the British in 1901 – if it weren’t for Chinese loans and China’s strong record of getting projects built on time. It took less than four years for the line to be completed.

China’s state-run news media has celebrated its completion as demonstrating a Chinese commitment to African development.

The new Kenyan line “bears the Kenyan people’s dream for this century of striving for national development and prosperity,” a Chinese vice foreign minister, Zhang Ming, said in Nairobi this month. “This also shows China’s firm support for Kenya achieving independent and sustainable development.”

But on Kenyan television, reports about the railway’s opening invariably turned to its inflated cost, and to questions of corruption. On one show, a politician who had switched allegiances from the opposition to Mr. Kenyatta’s party and who extolled the railway’s virtues was quickly submerged by calls from viewers. “You are lying,” one person said. “You were bribed.”

As a result of the railway’s gargantuan cost, and the equally enormous task of repaying China, some Kenyans already have a nickname for it: the Lunatic Express 2.

The name Lunatic Express was coined more than a century ago to describe a colonial British railway so costly it was considered a “gigantic folly,” even by the standards of the Empire. The 660-mile line linked Lake Victoria with Mombasa. Thousands of laborers, most of them Indians, died from harsh working conditions, disease, hostile tribes and even man-eating lions.

In recent years, riding the train had become an act of lunacy itself. Passengers boarded a rusting, creaking millipede overtaken by trucks, buses and grazing animals that had claimed parts of the railway as resting spots.

The SGR, its Chinese successor, travels much faster, averaging 74 miles an hour, and is designed to carry 22 million tons of cargo a year. Its construction involved little foreign labor or murderous animals. The lunacy, many Kenyans say, is the idea of generations being chained to China, long after Mr. Kenyatta and his coterie leave office.

“It’s madness,” said Samuel Nyandemo, a senior lecturer in economics at Nairobi University, who was visibly outraged. Why, he almost shouted, is the railway twice as expensive as a similar project in neighboring Ethiopia or Morocco? And why was the tendering process done behind closed doors, if not to allow Kenya’s political elite to pocket vast sums of kickbacks?

“This is another type of lunacy,” he said.

There are parallels between the old Lunatic line and its replacement, said Elias Randiga, the assistant director of the Railway Museum in Nairobi, a stone’s throw from the original Nairobi Station.

habby and dilapidated, it had imposing lettering on one wall that read (as if to drive the point that lower classes weren’t welcome), “Upper Class Booking and Ticketing Office.”

Opened in 1899, the building was constructed on marshland used by Maasai pastoralists to graze their cattle. The name Nairobi is derived from the Maasai word meaning “a place of cool waters.”

Today, a cacophonous, chaotic city shoves itself onto the grounds of the prim Victorian station. “Matatu” buses unceremoniously dump off passengers, while businessmen in suits buy fruit from village women. A bright-red election bus spilling over with President Kenyatta’s supporters recently snarled traffic, as some hopped off and strutted to Kenyan pop music and the honking horns of irritated drivers.

The Indian laborers working for the British faced a hostile environment, including the sheer physical challenge of laying down 17,000 miles of track that climbed into mountains and then descended into the Great Rift Valley.

More than 4,000 people died during the railway’s construction. Among them, dozens were killed and eaten by lions, including one British man who was dragged out of his bed by one. “Tsavo camp remained very much a man-eater’s chophouse,” wrote Charles Miller in “The Lunatic Express,” a book about the railway’s construction, referring to the region that became Tsavo National Park.

Lion attacks were so bad that Indian laborers went on strike, Mr. Randiga said. “There was a myth among Indians that they were targeted because they ate spice and lions liked spice,” he said, taking out a small plastic box from a drawer and presenting it. In it were century-old claws that belonged to one of the lions, yellowed and smooth like pieces of ivory. (“I keep them under lock and key,” he said.)

The Chinese railway has also not been without controversy. At least 10 elephants were killed during construction when they collided with trains, according to Save the Elephants, a nongovernmental group.

Just as there has been local opposition to the Chinese-made railway over land issues, the British were attacked by a tribe led by a man who had prophesied that an “Iron Snake” would lure its people and colonize them.

“Which turned out to be true,” said Mr. Randiga.

He proceeded to recite a poem by a British politician, Henry Labouchere, who opposed the railway’s construction back in the early 1900s. It says, in part:

Where it is going to, nobody knows.

What is the use of it, none can conjecture.

What it will carry there’s none can define.

It is clearly nought but a lunatic line.

Mr. Randiga paused, and laughed. “We have the same debate today.”

By Mzee Posted in kenya

The rotten IEBC register here to stay

After a long struggle by the opposition, finally the IEBC accepted to conduct an audit of the voter register. I must say that I’m one of those people who has always been skeptical of the ability of KPMG to successfully do the job. Not because they are KPMG but because they don’t  have a track record of conducting such data cleansing,besides being infiltrated by Jubilee party.

It was always obvious that there was no clean data that could be used to verify the rotten voter register. The death and birth records are in shambles just as much as the ID records at the Immigration department. I had always wondered how they would expunge any data from the register without cross checking with some trusted records.

I must say that my fears have been confirmed, the KPMG report is out and they have managed to identify only 92,277 dead voters. Then they give an estimate of  1,037,260  as the number of dead-voter that might be in that register (this is pure guess work, they could three million). Since they have nothing to use for verification of the over million dead voters, these ghost voters will never be identified.

Truth of the matter is that only a fresh voter register can cure this problem. As things stand, over a million dead voters will take part in the election.

Had IEBC taken another firm than KPMG we would be telling a different story but as things stand we have not made any positive strides as far as the register in concerned. To compound the problem one very corrupt firm has been given the ballot printing paper tender. Its said that this company has share holders in Kenya. Besides, it has printed ballots in countries that massive rigging have taken place.  Im afraid. I fear.

Basically KPMG is just hoodwinking Kenyans. This perhaps the biggest joke ever.


SGR Has Arrived Partly.

The SGR services were launched this week. After seeing the dazzling pictures and learning that it takes five hours to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa as opposed to the crazy 12+ hours the old junk railway took, I was very excited about the development.

I took pictures and rushed to tell my son the big news. The dude loves his country. We are travelling home in the next two weeks and he has been bagging me about visiting Mombasa and Lamu.

The young man has great interest in architectural sciences and he thinks Coastal housing designs all the way from Morocco to Zanzibar to Kenya offer exceptional opportunities for people to study architecture at another level.

He has been amazed by designs going back to the 15th and 16th century in coastal cities. In Zanzibar for example Ibn Batuta ( a brutal colonizer) actually introduced some truly stunning housing designs. For the royalty of course.

To cut a very long story very short, I was delighted to tell the man that yes, we will be going to Mombasa and now we have a brand new railway system to explore as we go there. He asked me how long I think this thing will keep working leave alone keep clean. I told him we are Kenyans and we know how to wreck things quick but we will hang on to this one.

Now the more I dig in to find the story behind the story for the SGR project the more scary it looks, never mind Uhuru’s childish pettiness in fighting Joho, the more scary the whole thing looks. It seems Kenyans are going to have to auction their blood to pay for this thing.

What the heck is up with this SGR thing? Anybody knows.

Here we go.

SGR ‘bitter pill to swallow’ for Coast residents – Joho

May. 31, 2017, 6:00 pm


The Standard Gauge Railway Mombasa Terminus at night. /MONICAH MWANGIThe Standard Gauge Railway Mombasa Terminus at night. /MONICAH MWANGI

When the Standard Gauge Railway was conceived under the Kibaki/Raila administration, it was a moment full of joy and promise for Kenya. It was born with every stakeholder in mind. The benefits and losses were balanced fairly throughout the country of Kenya. The future was full of limitless possibilities.

But it has now become a bitter pill to swallow. Especially for the coastal people and Mombasa. When the Jubilee regime came to power, their ascension became our misery. The best of their time is now the worst of ours. Their “spring of hope” has become our “winter of despair”.

That a modern railway was due in Kenya is not the question. The problem is that the obscene inflation of the price under Jubilee has made it too expensive for kenya. To cater for this cost, the jubilee administration has had to provide a number of guarantees to ensure the realization of this project. Key amongst the guarantees is that they have mortgaged the economic future of Mombasa. The port of Mombasa. Our birthright!

We would like the people of Kenya to know, we are a city at risk. Not only have they concessioned away the port of Mombasa in secret, the SGR will kill the city. Like the children of the biblical Isaac, one of us has sold his brothers birthright.

Key amongst the guarantees that have been conceded by the GOK for this project to come to like are:

a. Financial Guarantees

1. A “Take or Pay” contract with the Kenya Ports Authority. This means if the KPA cannot provide certain amount of goods, they have to pay the Chinese Exim Bank the difference.

2. The Railway Development Levy 1.5% RDL, this is a charge levied on ALL goods passing the port of Mombasa to satisfy the 10% local financing of the project.

3. A sovereign guarantee was issued by the National Treasury, Government of Kenya guaranteeing this loan.

b. Non Financial Guarantees

1. A Dry Port in Naivasha to move port operations.

2. A special economic zone in Naivasha to create new source of goods for the railway.

3. The disregard of the current concession with the old railway.

4. The privatisation and concession of the Port of Mombasa to private players to seek efficiency.

5. The guarantee by compulsion of goods from road traffic to rail at a higher cost

Consequences of this project are:

1. The immediate loss of Jobs for over 7000 current port employees, their dependants and affiliated businesses

2. The death of all port related business in Mombasa. From Trucking, Loading, Clearing and forwarding, Warehousing, logistics and others.

3. The arrest of all logistics-related future development.

4. The death of related logistics cities and towns along trucking routes on Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

In the light of this, we hereby demand that:

1. The government release the terms of the contract with the Chinese Exim Bank, the details of disbursement and attendant relevant information.

2. The Government of Kenya release all details of the Take or Pay contract between KPA and the financiers? What is the goods threshold and the responsibility of collection of the these fees.

3. Due to conflicting reports, the government clarify in details all charges related to goods and their destinations.

4. The government clarify the method of nomination of goods for rail and the point and implementation of charges.

5. The government clarify the extinction date of the Railway Development Levy on goods and come clean on the amounts collected since.

6. The government release the terms of the port concession, all monies paid and the details of the contract

7. The the Government clarify the details of site selection of Naivasha as a dry port. The feasibility study and the project appraisal report.

8. That the government release the “Willingness to Pay” survey of the goods for meant for railway and the feasibility report of the proposed Naivasha Special Economic Zone.

9. And that the Jubilee government show us their plan for Mombasa.

I wish to reiterate to the people of Mombasa and the coast at large, I will not have performed my duty before God and the people if I do not stand firm against this issue. I pray that you stand by your leaders as we seek to determine what future our country holds for us.

I wish to declare that you are the determinant of that future. You have a choice. On 8/8/17, make the right choice. Vote for Raila Amollo Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.

Thank you.


(Exclusive) Vitanda Viwili (Kutengana )

As always – once every so often, we get an exclusive and should I say explosive story land on our desk that completely changes our world view. This is one of them



Ruto marriage in TURMOIL as extramarital affairs ROCK second family The marriage of Deputy President William Ruto is reportedly in serious turmoil with sources revealing that the couple are now living separately as concerned friends frantically attempt to broker a truce. DP Ruto is believed to have ordered his now estranged wife of 25 years Rachel tailed after suspecting that she was having an affair – disguised as public engagements – leading to the bust-up that resulted in the couples separation. The DP is living at his official government residence while the wife lives in their matrimonial home, both based in the exclusive suburb of Karen.

Ruto’s family-man demenour was recently shattered to smithereens after a woman known as Priscah Chemutai Bett sued him for child neglect. The two sired a secret child who is now 11 years old. The DP is reportedly angered by revelations that his wife sponsored Ms Bett lawsuit as a way of getting back at him after he cancelled all her public affairs including her involvement as an advocate for women’s rights and women’s empowerment. The DP also curtailed the second lady’s love foe travelling as part of the Kubamba TV Crew whom he hosted at his official residence last year.

Friends of the Ruto’s told this writer that the marriage had been rocked by extramarital affairs on both sides and that Rachel Ruto is ‘no angel’ herself either and had a fling with an unnamed Kubamba TV presenter prior to her husband’s revelations of dalliances outside the marriage. Another of these flings by the second lady allegedly involve an embarrassing affair with Congolese investor and patron of local football Club Sofapaka FC.

Last year, Sofapaka owner Elly Kalekwa was deported three hours after he was caught in a compromising situation at a Lang’ata Road hotel room with Mrs Ruto. He was assaulted and injured by DP Ruto government bodyguards before his deportation papers were quickly processed.

The Ruto’s have four children of their own but the Deputy President has reportedly sired several illegitimate children outside the marriage much to the chagrin of his wife and grown up children. Two more adult children, Nick and June, sired by DP Ruto outside wedlock were taken in by Rachel and have grown to be adults under Rachel’s care.

There are also hushed reports of domestic violence against the petite and vivacious second lady.

In the last one week, Reverend Teresa Wairimu Kinyanjui, founder and director of Karen based ultra-modern Faith Evangelistic Ministries (FEM) has been acting broker and emissary between the estranged couple. The multi-billion FEM is the same church where an emotional Ruto, accompanied by his ‘loving’ wife Rachel once shed tears following their surprise electoral win with President Uhuru Kenyatta. So serious are the differences between the Ruto’s that visiting Ghanaian Ex-President John Mahama, who is on private visit to Kenya, has taken a break from his official schedule to counsel his friends the Rutos.



Unity consensus emerging in opposition on super alliance for 2017 polls

According to highly reliable source within the alternative governing coalition, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), a significant consensus has been achieved in agreeing the Presidential candidature for the 2017 Kenya General Elections.

The reinvigorated coalition, whose bedrock is social democratic policy and bringing together a group of strategic leaders across all contours of Kenya, will be formed to ensure economic and social stability, security and national cohesion.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and Devolution will be its core driving force The positive co-operation of the different parties and individuals and a foundation has been laid to enable the country to shift from retreat and retrogression to advance in most areas of endeavour to Kenyans, despite the exceptionally difficult circumstances, which prevail in four years of corrupt, intolerant and exclusionist Jubilee regime.

The Coalition priorities values of equality, social justice, solidarity, sustainable development, gender equality, and democratic security where collective interests of Kenyans and country take precedence over particular personal interests.

Foremost among its tasks is to deepening devolved system of governance as core pillar of creating wealth and quality jobs for the millions of young people who were conned by Jubilee Government.

To further support building inclusive economy from every sector and corner of the country, the Coalition will strengthen local small businesses and manufacturing in counties.

The coalition will promote open government, increased transparency and deepen democratic reform. It will make every effort to foster an open and creative environment for every Kenyan, and friends of Kenya who we share mutual interest, to prosper and ensure sharing of our wealth while taking cognizance of protecting tomorrow generation future.

The coalition will make every effort to protect low-income earners and those who are most vulnerable, and to distribute the tax burden fairly, equitably and justly.

Young people will have chance to learn, train, work and earn so that they have opportunity to develop the prerequisite quality skills The coalition will be fully devoted to a concerted effort, at all levels of society, toward laying the foundation for inclusive sustainable economic policy and a better society, one which will rank among the best in creating value, prosperity, welfare and real quality of life”.

Negotiators have resolved to abandon the constitutional amendment path and seek to work with the existing constitution governance structure. Further to ensure equity and inclusion in government, the consensus agreement will guarantee that every face and diversity of the Kenya is represented including paying special attention to the generational equity and gender consideration.

The emerging consensus which is yet to be finalized shows the flowing

1. Presidency- Hon. Raila Odinga. He is fronted as major glue and key player in managing the Kenya democratic transition and reconciling the country. There is proposal on the table he will be transitional president.

2. Deputy Presidency- Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka. He is considered to be front runner post-Raila transitional presidency

3. Speaker, National Assembly- Either Coastal or Maa currently front runner Elijah Memusi

4. Majority Leader, National Assembly- Hon. Farah Maalim. This is very strategic political position. Hon. Farah represents wide range of interests especially for Muslim, marginalized and safeguarding the independence and authority of the National assembly. His past experience was considered. He will come through Wiper Party.

5. Speaker, Senate- Mt. Kenya region/Kalenjin. This is crucial position considering that central role Senate is playing in strengthening devolution.

6. Senate Majority- Hon Gideon Moi. His recent Bill local Content and historical position of the Kalenjin to defend interests of minority, devolution and land interests

7. Nairobi Governor,- Hon Musalia Mudavadi. Nairobi is basically the economic and [political hub of Kenya and the region. Hon. Musalia midwife devolution as the last Minister for Local Government. This position gives him a remarkable political influence and almost third most powerful political figure in the country.

8. Senator Moses Wetangula. He is proposed to run for the Bungoma Governorship which is considered to be one of the key Counties in the Country. This will give him chance to rebuild and reorganize his presidential bid for 2022.

9 . Mombasa Governor- Hon. Hassan Joho. He represents strategic County and has national influence and constituency especially young people.

10. Bomet Governor Isaaac Rutto and host of Governors are part of the broad based government that CORD intends to form. Also CORD is set to tap key people in crucial cabinet positions. According to the consensus, cabinet slots will reflect diversity of Kenya and people of impeccable intellectual, integrity and political acumen

Note: Gender representation still remains on table


This below is from our correspondent in Kisumu

Until the construction of a new police station at Migosi and the visit by Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinet to officiate it’s opening and reshuffle the administration and regular police structure in the county, Kisumu’s insecurity had reached unbearable proportions.

As the chief benefactor of the dreaded Kisumu “Chinese Gang” that reigned terror, committed murders, carjackings and engaged in violent robberies, Onyango Oloo certainly owes ODM supporters and Kisumu residents in particular a little more than a defection and a pledge to reveal how presidential votes were manipulated in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta.

Lives were lost, business closed and families deeply hurt by the illegal activities of the infamous Chinese Gang whose known commanders and members proudly accompanied Onyango Oloo to his press conference yesterday.

The shadowy and feared Chinese Gang still levies illegal tax on businesses and public transport vehicles within Kisumu Town to date. Is Oloo the main beneficiary of this illegal taxation on hapless Kisumu residents?

Are we now expected to see life return to peace and tranquility in Kisumu now that Onyango Oloo is an ODM member?

– The Diabolical TNA Conspiracy via @deep_cogitation


I think we need to interrogate a lot of facts, even as we “welcome back home” our “brother”

We expect nothing short of full disclosure

Food for thought!