Northern Corridor ministers eye wider use of rail and waterways

Monday July 18 2022
mv uhuru

The refurbished MV Uhuru Vessel at Kisumu Port on May 29, 2021. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NMG


The Northern Corridor Council of Ministers has approved $5.53 million budget for the 2022/ 2023 financial year, with an eye on roads, rail and waterways projects as solutions to congestion.

The Executive Committee approved $1.1 million more than it did in the past fiscal year for railway and inland water projects expenditure.

The meeting made the decision even as Kenya and Uganda remain at odds over the completion of the oil jetty in Lake Victoria on the Ugandan side. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda had earlier agreed on using Lake Victoria as a key transit point for oil.

The Ksh1.7 billion ($17 million) Kisumu oil jetty on the Kenyan side was completed in 2018, but the corresponding jetty in Kampala is yet to be done. During the 34th meeting of the Northern Corridor Council of Ministers held in Mombasa on July 8, the members admitted that road transport is insufficient for moving more than 9.5 metric tonnes of cargo across the region, thus giving Central Corridor through Tanzania an edge.

“There is a need for an increased inter-connectedness of the different transport modes along the corridor, especially with the increased pace of development of railway and road infrastructure and the upgrading of lake ports,” reads a joint communique by the six member states.

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The Council asked Northern Corridor Secretariat to engage Kenya and Uganda on the development and use of the standard gauge railway (SGR) as envisioned in the Northern Corridor integration projects.

Kenya’s SGR ended up near Naivasha, owing largely to a lack of adequate funding but also due to Uganda’s delayed commitment to construct its bit to Malaba. Ministers present included Council’s chairperson Dr Ernest Nsabimana, Minister for Infrastructure (Rwanda), Acting Cabinet Secretary Minister for EAC and Regional Development Betty Maina (Kenya), and Lado Tombe, Minister for Transport (South Sudan).

Others were Fred Byamukama, Minister for Works and Transport (Uganda), Marie Chantal Nijimbere, the Minister for Commerce, Transport, Industry and Tourism (Burundi) and Chérubin Okende, Minister for Transport and Ways of Communication (DRC).

In the meeting, both Kenya and Uganda agreed to develop Lake Victoria inland waterway transport (IWT) to provide shipping services on Lake Victoria, focusing on transit cargo from Mombasa to the East African Community (EAC) region.

The waterway is expected to boost services at three main lake ports along the Northern Corridor located at Kisumu for Kenya, Port Bell for Uganda and Mwanza South for Tanzania.

Also read: Northern Corridor team embarks on building labs

Kenya upgraded Kisumu port with a capacity of handling 50,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and is operating train wagon ferries on the lake between railhead ports of the two countries together with Uganda. Kenya has rehabilitated a train wagon ferry (MV Uhuru) with a carrying capacity of 1,180 tonnes and is constructing a second vessel (MV Uhuru II).