Rwandan Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete was last week quoted by Kenyan media as saying that Kigali had opted out of the project in favour of the “shorter and cheaper” Tanzania route.
The report sparked panic among Kenyan government officials, especially since it came shortly after Uganda said it would build a pipeline for its oil through Tanzania rather than Kenya.
This prompted the Transport secretary James Macharia to announce that Kenya would build its railway up to Kisumu or Naivasha as extension of the line to Malaba would no longer be necessary if landlocked states pulled out.
But in a quick attempt to save the situation, executive director of Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority Donat Bagula issued a statement saying that the Rwandan minister had been misquoted by the media, adding that Rwanda is still on course to link its railway to Mombasa.
“Rwanda has not pulled out of the Northern Corridor and this has been clarified in the local media following the misquoting of the minister,” he said.
Mr Gatete also came out to clarify himself saying that all he had pointed out was that the Tanzanian route is shorter and slightly cheaper compared to the Kenyan one.
“To suggest that Rwanda was pulling out of one railway route in favour of the other is simply misleading,” Mr Gatete told The New Times, a Rwandan newspaper, last week.
Rwanda estimates that it will cost Sh100 billion to build the railway on the Kenyan route and Sh80 million to Sh90 million on the Tanzanian route.
The railway will run from Mombasa in Kenya through Kampala in Uganda to Kigali in Rwanda – a distance of about 2,935km.
The Sh1.17 trillion project entails a 1,185km rail from Mombasa through Nairobi to Malaba and branching to Kisumu; a 1,400km rail from Malaba to Kampala and branching to four Ugandan towns before connecting to the main line to Rwanda at Mirima Hills; a 200km rail from Mirima Hills to Kigali and an extra 150km rail to other towns in Rwanda.
Although the project will be undertaken by the three countries as a block, each State will finance the section of the line under its territory.
Of the three countries, only Kenya has made significant progress on the project, with 80 per cent of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway line completed. Uganda and Rwanda are still negotiating financial deals.