The Reality of the Standard Gauge Railway

The start of operations at the dry ports of Naivasha and Nairobi by the Kenyan government signaled disaster for the economy in Mombasa County.

Mombasa business owners have experienced a slow and steady business shut down with the closure of most freight companies. The general public is faced with the reality of a difficult future, as most of the smaller businesses have also been affected. With government orders that all cargo docking at the Mombasa Port must be transported to the dry ports using the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), many container freight companies resolved to transfer their operations to Nairobi and Naivasha, because they are unable to meet the costs of operations in both in Mombasa and Nairobi.

Many are directly impacted by SGR transporting cargo to Nairobi and Naivasha - including transport business owners, long-distance truck drivers, clearing and forwarding agents, and other local business persons like the food vendors and Boda Boda riders.

On 3rd December 2018, long-distance truck drivers had delivered a petition to the Mombasa County Assembly to raise the red flag about job losses due to this new SGR directive. But nothing has come of it since. The petition remains in the hands of the Assembly, which ­seems incapable of acting and protecting the rights of the Mombasa people.

The spotlight shone on Mombasa when affected residents decided to come together and hold protests every Monday. The protests lasted 14 weeks before the matter was presented before the Senate Committee – but this has also not yielded any strong resolutions. The SGR continues to exclusively transport the cargo containers.

Protests against the SGR monopoly came to a halt with the coronavirus pandemic and a ban on gatherings. So activism continued virtually. Some of the affected people have held virtual press briefings and featured in radio shows decrying the SGR monopoly. The vision of an open transport business operation plan is being maintained, where business owners can decide on which means of transport to use for their cargo.

The repressive actions of the government, using the name of Covid, have led many to believe that the government is using this period to enforce illegal directives and get clean away with it.

 

Story by IFA Coast Team

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