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Protests against SGR Policy Hit Mombasa

Business within Changamwe area was Monday paralyzed for the better part of the day as transporters and human rights groups staged a demonstration to pressurize the government to rescind its plan to transport all bulk cargo by the standard gauge railway.

The agitated demonstrators drawn from human rights organizations, long distance truck drivers, Tuk Tuk Operators, and small business traders carrying placards and signboards begun their protests at the Changamwe round about towards Magongo which saw traffic flow derailed for the several hours.

Kenya transporters Association Chief executive Dennis Ombok dismissed the government’s claim that transporting cargo by railway was cheaper than using trucks.

“We are asking for a fair competition, we want this decision rescinded because its effect is now so dire in the region. They are claiming that it is cheap to transport cargo by rail but is not, it is just a plan to finish our economy here at the Coast,” said Ombok.

Haki Africa Human rights Organization said the plan has triggered increase of social vices like insecurity and drug and substance use among the youth who have been rendered jobless.

Kenya Long distance truck drivers’ union Mombasa secretary Harriet Muganda called on the government to make it optional for bulk cargo to be transported through the standard Gauge Railway SGR before it’s destined to the Inland container Depot in Nairobi.

Their protest comes days after a study by the University of Nairobi (UoN) also revealed that more than 60 per cent of employees working at the Container Freight Stations (CFSs) were jobless.

The report indicates that the government lost more than Sh126 billion in revenue in one year from Mombasa County since the introduction of freight trains.

The standard Gauge Railway (SGR), a flagship project of vision 2030 is billed as the biggest transport infrastructure project in the country’s history, expected to haul close to nine million tonnes of cargo and make Sh5.08 billion profit per year, averaging Sh424 million earnings monthly.

The negative impact is being felt by lodges and restaurants that depend on the trucks not only at the Coast, but also in other parts of the country where truck drivers and conductors eat and sleep.

The cost of transporting cargo by road ranges between Sh85, 000 and Sh95, 000 for a 40 foot container compared with the new SGR charges of Sh100, 000.

By Joseph Kamolo

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