By Melodie Mukansonera
Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has announced that works on the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) which will run from Dar es Salaam through Kigali to DR Congo, are on track and that his country is doing everything possible to ensure the smooth completion of the project.
He made the remarks after inspecting works on the first phase of the project that runs from the Tanzanian commercial capital Dar es Salaam to Morogoro. The second phase runs from Morogoro-Makutupora, and then from there it will run to Makuta-Isaka before reaching Kigali.
The 2,561 km SGR line is estimated to cost 14.2bn US dollars and part of the Central Corridor projects.
Last year, Rwanda approved the law ratifying the agreement on the Isaka-Kigali Standard Gauge Railway Project. This meant that Rwanda is ready to implement everything that is on paper. The railway is expected to ease Rwanda’s access to the port after Uganda worked against the Northern Corridor SRG route which was to link Kigali to the port of Mombasa through Kampala.
The project had been agreed upon between Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya but Uganda suddenly changed tact, and instead said they will build the railway towards their border with South Sudan, rather than Rwanda.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s plans to extend the railway to Malaba (their border with Uganda) were brought to a stand still after Uganda announced that they were reviving their meter gauge line instead of the SRG. Kenya had already started works on the SGR, but President Museveni’s announcement during his State of Nation address last year left Kenya with no choice but to revamp its section of the meter gauge railway to Naivasha Dry Port.
According to observers, the move by Uganda left the East African dream of achieving a seamless Northern Corridor transport network in a state of limbo. For Rwanda the option was to bank on the Central Corridor of which Kigali moved swiftly to tap into.
Rwanda will however still benefit from the railway project after the country acquired a dry port in Naivasha, Kenya, as announced last week by Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta.
According to Biruta, Rwanda-bound commodities will be transported by SGR to Naivasha where they will be picked by trucks before heading to Rwanda. Biruta said that Rwanda’s wish is to have seamless access to both the Northern and Central Corridor.