100 year old railway vandalized in political wrangling

The 100 year old Kenya – Uganda railway lies in ruins thanks to political wrangles following disputed elections in December last year.

Security personnel walking past a section of uprooted railway line in Kibera

Security forces patrol Nairobi’s Kibera slums where another 500 metres of the railway line was ripped in protests over the delay in naming of a new Cabinet. Picture by East African Standard.

Supporters of ODM leader Raila Odinga uprooted hundreds of metres of the country’s strategic railway links in protest over a delay in formation of a coalition cabinet by President Mwai Kibaki. Mr Odinga will be the Prime Minister in the coalition. A 40 member cabinet due to be announced last Sunday has been delayed indefinitely following disagreements between Odinga and Kibaki. Both Odinga’s ODM and Kibaki’s PNU want to control the ministries of foreign affairs, local government, transport, cabinet affairs and energy.

The cabinet stand off has raised fears of fresh violence between supporters of the two. Violence in January this year claimed the lives of 1,500 people after disputed elections. 300,000 people remain homeless with little prospects of returning home without a coalition government in place.

The Kenya – Uganda Railway, built by British colonialists at the beginning of the 1900s is Kenya’s link to the port of Mombasa. The railway also serves Western Kenya and Uganda. The first time Raila’s supporters uprooted the railway line was in January this year. The youths said they were cutting off supplies to Uganda, whose President had been the first to recognize President Kibaki’s election to a second term of office. Raila’s supporters say their man was robbed of victory.

Prior to this year’s violence, the Kenya – Uganda railway had lived through 24 years of former President Daniel arap Moi’s rule which was characterized by corruption and pro-democracy riots. There was even a short-lived coup in 1982. The railway survived the Mau Mau insurgency of the 1950s. During World War 2, the Kenya Uganda Railway was a vital supply link for British forces fighting the Italians in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). A branch line was built from Nairobi to Nanyuki for this purpose. The railway almost went bankrupt during the global economic depression of the 1920s while during World War 1, it was a target of German forces operating from Tanganyika (now Tanzania).

This railway link, which contributed to the existence of Kenya as a state, is now the victim of politicking that threatens to tear apart the country.

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