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Rwanda looks to Tanzania for Rail Transport as Uganda Falters on SGR

Rwanda is in talks with Tanzania and Burundi for a shared standard gauge railway through the Central Corridor after it realised that Uganda was not prioritising the Kampala-Kigali connection that would have seen it transport its goods through Kenya.

It has been learnt that Rwanda’s Infrastructure Permanent Secretary Christian Rwankunda held a series of meetings with senior officials from Tanzania and Burundi in Dar es Salaam last week to thrash out the details of the Central Corridor project. The meeting was with lands, legal and infrastructure officials drawn from Tanzania and Burundi.

These meetings followed another one in Arusha in March, of the joint technical monitoring committee, which was attended by infrastructure ministers from the three countries.

“The ministers commended the prevailing commitment among the three partner states to realise the implementation of the railway project and its importance to foster physical integration of transport modes, economic growth and improved social services in the sub region,” said a statement issued by the joint secretariat of the three countries. But it did not say much apart from their commitment to fast-track the project.

The three countries are said to be looking at mid next year as the starting time for the construction of the railway, with the tendering expected to start in the next two months.

On Monday, Jules Ndenga, Rwanda’s acting special projects implementation unit co-ordinator at the Ministry of Infrastructure, said the three countries were looking for a consultant to advise on the drafting of the tender documents for the railway deal.

“We had a joint technical monitoring committee meeting in Arusha, aimed at extending the contract for the transaction advisory services that had expired at the end of last year till the end of April. Thereafter, the three countries will get a consultant to advise on the documentation for this public private venture,” Mr Ndenga said.

Race to Juba.

Uganda is keen to fund the construction of the Tororo-Gulu-Pakwach line ahead of the SGR connection with Kenya at Malaba because of the big economic interests the country has in South Sudan. This would delay the Kigali-Kampala line.

Nairobi and Kampala said to be in a quiet rivalry to connect their SGR segments to South Sudan as Uganda-Rwanda leg is deemed uneconomical.

In 2014, Rift Valley Railways, the concessionaire for the Uganda-Kenya railway, completed the rehabilitation of the Tororo-Pakwach line, which has not been in use for the past 18 years.

’Coalition of the Willing’.

In 2013, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan initiated the Northern Corridor Integration Projects with a view to speeding up regional integration. Key projects under this initiative, which came to be referred to as the “Coalition of the Willing” included the SGR from Mombasa to Kampala, Kigali and Juba; and a common crude oil pipeline to serve the new oil discoveries in Kenya and Uganda, and the existing oil fields in South Sudan.

In addition to the infrastructure projects, the countries formed clusters to handle ICT, the oil refinery, political federation, Financing, power generation, commodity exchanges, human resource capacity building and land. Other clusters would handle immigration, trade, tourism, labour and services, the Single Customs Territory, Mutual Defence Co-operation, Mutual Peace and Security Co-operation and airspace management.

By Robert Muriisa, EA

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