Today I will start by talking about a colleague of mine, called Eric Kabeera. Eric, one of the most hardworking and dedicated reporters at The New Times, bagged three awards and the East Africa Media Awards that were held at the Speke Resort Hotel, Munyonyo in Kampala.
Kabeera was recognised as the 2013 Best Reporter in East Africa on matters concerning the political federation, environment and education categories. Since he covers EAC matters just like me, we often share lots of jokes and discuss serious developments in the region. I am glad that he has finally been recognised for his outstanding work.
The five East African leaders finally got to meet in Kampala and were to be joined by the chairperson of the AU Commission, Dlamini Zuma. The key item on their agenda this time is to put ink to paper on the proposed East African Monetary Union.
This has been one of the most controversial steps of the EAC federation journey with many arguing that it is going to be hard to pull off especially after the example of the European Union. We shall wait to see how it all goes and hope for the best at the end of the day.
The heads of state of the five EAC member states are also expected to use the summit in Kampala to consider the applications of South Sudan and Somalia on joining the community. I have said it here before that I think EAC needs to spend more time fixing its house before it starts inviting guests. I will leave it at that.
The best news for me though was not from Kampala but further away in Mombasa. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta officially launched the construction of a new Chinese-financed railway line. It has been called a standard gauge railway which precisely means it is a new and improved version of what is in existence but not exactly state of the art.
The first phase of the railway will run from Mombasa to Nairobi later extending to Malaba with a connection to Kisumu or rather Kisumu city as my Luo friends love to insist. After that it will move to Kampala with another section heading to Gulu in northern Uganda then all the way to Juba in South Sudan. The Kampala line will run through to Kasese and finally find its way to Kigali.
There are plans for the same rail network to also link to Kisangani in DRC and Bujumbura in Burundi. So if all goes well all the major cities and towns in the region will soon be connected by a better metallic snake also know as a train.
The standard gauge train we are told will carry over 4000 tonnes of cargo compared to the 1000 currently carried by the aging Kenya-Uganda railway. This is expected to go a long way in reducing the congestion at the Mombasa port. The cargo trains will be moving at about 80 km/h.
This development will not go down well with some people especially the truck drivers and truck owners who will struggle to compete with the cheapest transport option. It is said that the train service will bring down the freight costs by 60 per cent.
East African consumers clearly can do with cheaper goods and less heavy trucks on the roads. These trucks are the major reason for most of the fatal accidents and the rampant wear and tear the roads have to deal with.
The passenger service will see the journey between Mombasa to Nairobi reduced from 8 to about four hours since the trains will be moving at about 120 km/h. Now this is the point where my dream comes in.
When I finished my primary school, I had this amazing dream of travelling by train from Kampala to Mombasa and back. Unfortunately, I soon found out that there was actually no passenger service for the trains in Uganda.
I am an adventure loving person and I know that a train ride like that would be a great experience. Now that President Kenyatta has broken the ground for a new railway line that should eventually get to me here in Kigali, maybe I should revive and edit my dream.
Just imagine a train adventure from Mombasa to Kampala then to Kigali all the way to Bujumbura. Later on, I cross Lake Tanganyika to Kigoma port and ride that train all the way till Dar es Salaam. Those working on this project should hurry up then.