Deputy President William Ruto has promised to reverse a decree by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), his first major pronouncement to undo a policy enforced by his boss during their two terms in office.
Dr Ruto yesterday cited the administrative decisions that relocated core functions of the Port of Mombasa to the inland container depots (ICD) in Nairobi and Naivasha.
Since 2018, importers based in the capital and upcountry have been collecting their cargo from the Embakasi ICD, where it is delivered by rail from the port.
Last year, the government launched a direct SGR cargo freight from Mombasa to the ICD in Naivasha, a move aimed at speeding up movement of goods. As a result, cargo destined for neighbouring countries will now be loaded onto the SGR and moved from Mombasa to Naivasha from where transporters pick it for onward delivery.
While the directive was implemented to reduce congestion at the port, speed up evacuation and cut transport costs, there have been protests that it crippled the Coast economy as clearing and forwarding agencies and truckers relocated.
“It was never the intention of the government of Kenya to build SGR to impoverish the Coast. It was meant to make the port much more efficient, better and improve fortunes of the people at the Coast. Unfortunately, a few people took hostage [of SGR] and ended up with programmes that benefit a few people to the detriment of the Coast people.
“We will take both administrative and legal steps to reverse what has become the biggest impoverishment of the people of the Coast,” the DP said at his Karen official residence yesterday, referring to the mega infrastructure project.
The Embakasi ICD is so dear to Mr Kenyatta that when it had a congestion crisis that caused an uproar among traders, he personally inspected operations.
The dry port in Naivasha is also at the heart of the President’s efforts to promote regional integration. He offered land to South Sudan and Uganda to build inland container depots in the area.
Yesterday, the DP spoke after Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi read resolutions of a deal between his Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) party and the DP’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance that listed the reversal of the Nairobi and Naivasha inland ports among their commitments.
“The PAA agreement provides, inter alia, that upon winning the presidential election, Kenya Kwanza Alliance shall reverse all operational changes that have been carried out in the recent past whose effect has been to relocate some of the core activities of Kenya's main sea port from Mombasa to inland depots in Nairobi and Naivasha.
“To this end, the necessary administrative and legislative measures shall be undertaken within a year effective August 9, 2022,” Mr Kingi said, quoting what he said was their agreement.
Mr Kingi had given the condition as part of demands to support DP Ruto’s presidential bid.
Should Dr Ruto form the next government, PAA also wants his administration to provide jobs and other economic benefits from the Port of Lamu for the locals; revive cashew nuts, coconut and Bixa industries; and share blue economy resources.
He also wants a plan for the sharing of mining proceeds between national and local communities; reviewing of the Coast Guard Act and other laws to protect rights of locals in fishing and other economic activities; and tackling of historical land injustices. “You must set up a land compensation fund to assist the locals to progressively acquire land from absentee landlords. A budgetary allocation shall be provided to achieve these aims effective August 9, 2022,” said Mr Kingi.
The governor challenged the DP to ensure equitable representation of Coast residents in national government appointments, civil service, disciplined forces and diplomatic staff.
“Failure by KKA to seize power in August will spell doom for us, the people of the Coast,” he added, dismissing claims that he had joined Azimio to spy for DP Ruto.
Mr Kingi cited mistrust for his exit from the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party, claiming that decisions in the Raila Odinga-led outfit are made in secrecy and by a few people.
“The dealings in Azimio are shrouded in disturbing deep secrecy and mistrust. Consultations and decisions are made by a few and forced down the throats of the majority of the constituent parties,” said Mr Kingi, whose PAA formally joined the Kenya Kwanza Alliance yesterday.
The entry of Mr Kingi into Kenya Kwanza comes a day after Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) leader Alfred Mutua made similar claims, alleging he had been kept in the dark over the affairs of the Azimio coalition.
However, Azimio executive director Raphael Tuju dismissed the allegations, instead accusing Mr Mutua of demanding the document so that he could use it for negotiations with the deputy president.
“Some of the people who said that they needed this document … were negotiating with the other side and they needed it for purposes of benchmarking," claimed Mr Tuju on Monday.
"Since we knew that was going on, there was no need to continue negotiating with them. You can’t tell someone you want to leave a marriage because of a marriage certificate. They are lying to all of us.”
Yesterday, Mr Kingi dismissed the idea of benchmarking.
“We have been abused,” he said, adding that Kenya Kwanza and Azimio are political parties with nothing worth benchmarking.
“If you want to address our problems, why not commit in writing? The answer is simple – they can’t do it.”
The defection ceremony was witnessed by other Kenya Kwanza leaders, including Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Justin Muturi (Democratic Party).