On Wednesday, the Lower Chamber of Parliament endorsed a draft law authorising the ratification of the Nairobi Protocol on the development and operation of a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) under the Northern Corridor Integration Project.
The Bill now goes to the Senate for further scrutiny before coming into law. It is expected to happen not later than next month, according to the State Minister for Transport, Alexis Nzahabwanimana.
“We are Glad the lower chamber has approved the protocol. This draws us close to implementation of the regional infrastructure projects,” he said.
Abubakar Ogle, a Kenyan representative to the East Africa legislative Assembly (Eala) welcomed Rwanda’s move towards the implementation of the railway project, saying it keeps the regional integration process on track.
“Now that Rwanda has endorsed the protocol, I am very optimistic that the regional integration process is going on at a desired pace. I am very happy about that, and I am hopeful that the Ugandan parliament will also do the same,” Ogle told Sunday Times Yesterday.
The Ugandan parliament is yet to second the legal framework governing the regional infrastructure development fund over allegations of inflated cost of the project.
A Ugandan representative to Eala, Chris Opoka Okumu however said that the delay on Uganda’s side was simply technical with no cause for hindrance to the regional infrastructure project.
Opoka said that consultations are being made to reach a common understanding regarding engineering, procurement and construction.
“We cannot afford to lag behind on such a big and very beneficial regional project,” said Opoka.
Minister Nzahabwanimana, on the other hand said that, everything, including the infrastructure development fund, was ready and only awaits the legal framework to legalize it.
The Nairobi tripartite agreement between the three countries bids partner states jointly develop the SGR; and underlines the implementation process, including sufficient budgetary allocation.
To fast track regional integration, the governments of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda committed to the development of SGR that links the landlocked countries of Rwanda and Uganda with Mombasa Port in Kenya.
The ambitious 3,000km project estimated to cost $13.5 billion, is meant to provide a reliable, efficient railway transportation of goods, leading to reduced cost of doing business in the region. It is expected to be completed by 2018.
The decrease in transport cost would lead to sustained rapid industrialization and economic growth of the East African region.
Rwanda on track
Nzahabwanimana said that a bidding excise was ongoing to find a suitable contractor for Uganda-Rwanda lot; the exercise will also include underlining precision for the railway line as well as expropriation procedures.
A contractor for the project should been determined before June this year.
“By March 2016, areas where the railway line is going to pass would have been demarcated,” said the minister.
Rwanda needs about $1.2 billion to put meet its cost of the project. Nzahabwanimana said that this has already been approved by the funder.
For Rwanda to have this financial grant from funders, as said by the minister, requires legal frameworks governing infrastructure development fund.
He was confident that during the Heads of State Summit set for March 7, all pending issues regarding the northern corridor infrastructure development will be settled-keeping the project implementation within the set time frame.