Ugandan and Kenyan officials led by Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta will have to up their ante and shuttle diplomacy if their countries are to realize the fruition of joint projects discussed earlier with the three other East African Community (EAC) member states.
This follows an announcement on Sunday by Rwanda finance and economic planning minister Claver Gatete that his country had opted to develop the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) through Tanzania, arguing that the route is cheaper and shorter than the one transiting through Kenya and Uganda. In 2013, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda agreed to link up to the port of Mombasa along a standard-gauge railway estimated to cost US$ 13 billion.
However, the SGR change announced by Rwanda, which is a huge infrastructural development setback for East Africa’s largest economy, comes in the wake of Uganda also shifting stance against Kenya and opting to build a US$4 billion oil pipeline to transport crude oil from Hoima to the Tanzanian port of Tanga, with the same arguments Rwanda is advancing.
Meanwhile, studies on the SGR by EAC member states showed Tanzanian option would cost Rwanda about US$ 800 million (Sh80.5 billion) to US$ 900 million (Sh91 billion) while the Kenyan one would go for US$ 1 billion (Sh101 billion), according to Rwanda’s East African Community Affairs ministry .
“We opted for the route transiting to Tanzania during the construction of our railway line because the Kenyan route would be expensive and time consuming,” said Gatete.
The Dar es Salaam-Isaka-Kigali/Keza-Musongati (DIKKM) standard gauge railway (SGR) project is expected to be completed by March 2018 and is estimated to cost the three countries US$5.2 billion (Sh523.1 billion).
Jules Ndenga, acting special project implementation unit coordinator at the Rwanda ministry of infrastructure, said Rwanda and Tanzania had already held joint technical monitoring committee meeting to fast-track the project.
“We are conducting a joint development of the standard gauge railway with our counterparts from Burundi and Tanzania. We have agreed contract terms and conditions and the Rwanda Transport Development Agency, will procure it on behalf of the three countries,” he added.
Meanwhile, speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to the SGR in Uganda said the changes by Rwanda will affect the infrastructural development plan of both Uganda and Kenya.