Uganda SGR faces more uncertainty

Monday June 18 2018

The metre gauge railway. Confusion has affected funding for the Uganda standard gauge railway project. PHOTO | NMG


The reported sacking of Uganda’s standard gauge railway project co-ordinator Kasingye Kyamugambi is the culmination of the competing and contradictory information that President Yoweri Museveni has been getting.

News reports confirmed by sources close to Mr Kyamugambi say that a decision to fire him has been taken and is likely to be announced next week.

If it comes to pass, it will add to the uncertainty that has surrounded the project for several months now, as external actors took the initiative amidst undertones of a Kenya-Tanzania rivalry.

As a result, the date for financial closure, initially anticipated for next month, remains a moving target, with sources indicating that President Museveni is now looking at September, when African leaders gather in Beijing, China, for meetings of the Forum for China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) to sign deal with the China Exim Bank.

The confusion has affected funding, with the ministry of finance allocating only Ush50 billion ($13 million) for the SGR project in this year's budget, because they believe the project is still far from being launched.

Museveni took personal responsibility for the delays in the project's launch during his State of the Nation address on June 5, admitting that he was still not happy with the high cost of $2.3 billion that has been presented by the project team.


The contract price translates into an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) cost of $7.3 million per kilometre.

Higher than the nominal cost for the Mombasa-Nairobi section of Kenya’s SGR by $100,000, and $2.7 million higher than the unit cost of Ethiopia’s Addis-Djibouti line, the figure has put the Uganda SGR project team in the spot.

Mr Kyamugambi, who became project head long after a team comprising of officials from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Engineering Brigade, Uganda Railways Corporation and the Attorney General had negotiated the contract for the 273km line between Kampala and Malaba, has maintained that critics of the project's cost were comparing apples with oranges because Kenya and Uganda are building a superior class of railway.

Sources say that, Kyamugambi, in his mid 40s, could also be the victim of a generational clash since he is pitted against Museveni’s peers.

It is reported that at one point Museveni referred to Kyamugambi, who has been holding his ground, as “that stubborn young man.”

The pressure was so high that earlier this month, Kyamugambi was on the verge of tendering his resignation.

While arguments revolving around cost have shaped the public aspect of the debate about of the project, The EastAfrican has separately learnt that Museveni has been struggling to make sense of competing and often contradictory information from the project team, the president’s own advisory team, the parliamentary committee on infrastructure, and lobbying from the Tanzania-Turkey axis.