Kenyan MPs demand more details on secret $5bn railway loan deal with China
Some Kenyan lawmakers are demanding to see more documents from a secret $5bn loan agreement with a Chinese bank that financed a cross-country railway, with critics of the deal blaming the government of the day for having given too much legal authority to China.
The 2011 agreement was shielded from public view until Kenya’s transport secretary, Kipchumba Murkomen, released select pages on Sunday (6 November). Critics of the deal with the Export-Import Bank of China that financed the Standard Gauge Railway say those pages show the Kenyan government gave too much legal authority to China, and lawmakers now want to know whether Kenya put up public facilities as collateral in the deal. One clause says that any major dispute over the railway would be decided in Beijing, not Nairobi, although it is not clear whether that means Chinese officials have the final say in such disputes. The documents also show, among other things, that the Kenyan government was legally bound to keep the details of the deal secret.
Kenyan political analyst Javas Bigambo said compelling the state to conceal such information from the public is unlawful. “The non-disclosure agreement as provided for in that contract is in itself illegal, going by the fact that the laws of procurement in Kenya advocate for transparent procurement processes,” Bigambo said. Another part of the contract mandates that Kenya is not to buy materials for the railway from any country other than China. Some legislators believe that important details of the contract, like collateral for the loans, are still missing. Critics also question Murkomen’s motive for not releasing the entire contract. The roughly 600-kilometer-long railway, which connects the port city of Mombasa with the town of Naivasha 75 km northwest of Nairobi, opened five years ago. Critics say it is underused and has failed to generate the revenue or economic development that proponents of the project envisioned. China accounts for one-third of Kenya’s external debt.