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How Ndindi Nyoro got back his freedom after being dramatically arrested



Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who is also the lawyer representing Kiharu Member of Parliament, Ndindi Nyoro, has said his client has been freed and will not be charged in court.

The senator Tuesday morning said he had negotiated with top government officials who agreed to drop the charges against the MP.

“Mr Nyoro’s charges have been dropped unconditionally. He will not be presented to court after successfully negotiating with government officials,” Mr Kang’ata told the Nation without mentioning the said officials.

According to the police, Mr Nyoro was to be charged with assaulting police officers, resisting arrest and causing disturbance in church.

He was arrested on Monday night moments after a live show on a local TV station which was held at St James Cathedral Church in Murang’a.

But Irungu said there was no reason to arrest his client and that is why he was released.

“We have been able to use our legal acumen to secure his unconditional release. There is no evidence against my good friend Nyoro and therefore there is no reason to warrant his arrest and his arraignment in court,” the senator said on Citizen TV.

Kang’ata also refuted claims that his client was hiding from the police officers in a bid to resist arrest.

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Murang’a County Police Commander Josephat Kinyua and County Criminal Investigations Officer Julius Rutere led over 60 officers from the General Service Unit who had surrounded the venue of the TV show.

The officers had been ferried from Nairobi in six police vehicles.

After his arrest Nyoro was driven to Muranga police and immediately residents took to the streets to protest, forcing anti-riot police officers to be deployed.

Nyoro’s arrest came a day after he evades police officers by staying put in the studios of Citizen TV on Sunday night.

Earlier in the day, Nyoro and nominated Member of Parliament Maina Kamanda had clashed at Gitui Catholic Church in Kiharu, leading to chaotic scenes that prematurely stopped the service.

During the church drama, police officers attempted to arrest the Kiharu MP, but he managed to escape after his supporters blocked the officers.

by Nairobi News

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All that #ngiritas is not gold? KOT reacts to ‘chokora’ jab



On Monday, February 24, Phyllis Njeri Ngirita- one of the main suspects in the multi-million National Youth Service (NYS) scandal took social by storm.

This is after she claimed that her Class Seven son who was fluent in German before the scandal broke, has been reduced to a ‘chokora’ (street kid), and now only speaks in Kikuyu, Swahili and English.

“Miaka mbili tumeteseka. Mtoto aliacha shule, anaelekea kuwa chokora… Wamekataa kabisa kufungua hiyo account. So mtoto ata hawezi ongea Kijerumani, anaongea Kikuyu na Kiswahili ama Kizungu,” lamented Phyllis as she broke into tears outside the courtroom.

Phylis Njeri Ngirita at the dock [Photo: George Njunge]

She went ahead to narrate her desperation, stating that she has been forced to rely on matatus as her car was seized and is currently “rotting at the Naivasha Police Station.”

“Sai nitatoka hapa na huyu mtoto twende nyumbani na matatu… gari yangu inaozea police station na nilinunua na malipo ya pole pole,” she said.

But what captured netizen’s attention was the use of the word chokora and led to Kenyans on Twitter sharing their hilarious sentiments via the hashtags #ngiritas and #chokora for the better part of Monday and Tuesday morning.

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Mis-conception: Abortions within marriages



Evelyn Wambui (not her real name) had her career and family life all planned out. She wanted to have three children and a stable career by the age of 36. Everything had gone according to plan by the time she gave birth to her third born in February 2018.

She had a good career as a human resource manager at an insurance firm in Nairobi. She was also married with two children aged eight and five years. Six months after the birth of her third born, Evelyn started taking birth control pills. “Pills were my most favourable option at the time. I was not ready to use an intrauterine coil. I had also ruled out the Jadelle levonorgestrel implant because of previous heavy menses and constant spotting,” she says.

Having taken her pills faithfully, Evelyn was shocked when she started to miss her periods last year. It started in August, a year after she started taking the pills. “I was not alarmed at first. I had taken my pills well and there was no way I could have been pregnant,” she says. But she knew something was wrong when she missed her periods for the second month in a row. “I became very anxious. I wanted to take a test, but I was afraid. I decided to wait it out for another month,” she adds.

Evelyn finally took a pregnancy test after missing her periods in October. The test came back positive. “I was shocked and angry at the same time. I became very irritable. I had not planned to have another baby. I didn’t want another baby.” Evelyn decided to keep her pregnancy from her husband as she contemplated what to do. “I knew there was no way I could have another baby. I had to act fast before any pregnancy signs could emerge.” She decided to procure an abortion.

“I had calculated and figured out that I was about 12 to 13 weeks pregnant. I evaluated my options with a close friend in the medical field and got a trustable referral,” she says. On Monday, November 4 last year, Evelyn took the day off work and drove towards Upper Hill for her secret abortion. “I was examined and informed that a surgical abortion using a suction method was my best option. The procedure lasted less than 15 minutes,” she says.

Currently, Evelyn is using a five-year intrauterine coil as her preferred family planning method. “I have no regrets. Conception is a choice and a right for every woman. I would still opt to procure another abortion if things went south instead of carrying a pregnancy I haven’t planned for,” she says.

Her sentiments resonate with data and experiences of many married Kenyan women procuring abortions today. According to a study conducted at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in 2013, a significant number of women who procure abortion for the first time are likely to do it again.

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It would be easy to assume the majority of abortion cases are procured by unmarried women or helpless, young girls. But, there are many women who procure abortions in Kenya in the same marital status as Evelyn. Married. For instance, the KNH study, titled ‘Acceptability of Rapid HIV Test Screening Among Patients Presenting with Incomplete Abortion at Kenyatta National Hospital’, further noted that nearly two-thirds of women who seek post abortion care services are married, 22 per cent single, divorced or separated (12 per cent) while 4.4 per cent are widowed.

A related study conducted by Marie Stopes and published in the journal Plos One in November last year shows 22.4 per cent of women in Nairobi who procure abortions are married, partnered or cohabiting.

In most cases, married women procure abortions in secrecy. Take Kristie Nyachiro* She had an abortion one year after getting married. “It was my first pregnancy. I wasn’t ready. I was already juggling my career and a Master’s degree,” she says. Kristie and her husband had planned to have their first baby after five years. “I got married at 28. I wanted to concentrate on my career and academic progression first. I knew I wanted two children, the first born at 33,” she says.

When she fell pregnant a year down the line, Kristie saw abortion as the perfect solution to stop her career and academic plan from crumbling. “Having a baby is not as easy as it sounds. It takes sacrifice and commitment. It’s not like juggling tennis balls,” she says. At the same time, there are women who opt for abortion because they do not want to have any children at all.

In any given instance, the procurement of abortion reflects the conception of unwanted pregnancies. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), unsafe abortions in Kenya accounted for 35 per cent of maternal deaths. This was not the first national data set to show the high cases of unintended pregnancies. Take the 2008 to 2009 KDHS. This survey showed 43 per cent of women had unplanned pregnancies. Out of these, 17 per cent were unwanted while 26 per cent were mistimed.

Some of the major reasons married women opt for abortion are failure to use contraceptives, failed and untimed contraceptives.

Nonetheless, the use of contraceptives within marriage has been on a steady increase. While speaking during the World Contraceptive Day in 2019, outgoing Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said contraceptive prevalence among married women in Kenya had increased from 46 to 58 per cent over the last decade. “For every Sh100 invested in contraceptive services, we are able to save Sh200 in maternal and newborn healthcare as a result of a decline in the number of unwanted pregnancies,” she said.

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But it is not just the lack of or wrongly used contraceptives that is leading married women towards abortion. For instance, women who took part in the Marie Stopes study reported they did not have an agreement with their partners on the number of children they wanted to have before getting married. While some women like Evelyn are able to procure safe abortions, the vast majority take the unsafe route in unlicensed backstreet clinics. The life and financial consequences of unsafe abortions have been extreme.

A study titled ‘The Costs of Treating Unsafe Abortion Complications in Public Health Facilities in Kenya’ conducted by African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) and the Health ministry between 2012 and 2016 found that Kenya used Sh500 million on cases of unsafe abortion during that period. The report estimated that in Kenya, about 464,690 abortions are procured every year.

“These cases could be higher since these are only figures officially reported at health centres,” says Dr Janet Thuthwa, an obstetrician-gynaecologist in Nairobi. Out of these figures, the report further shows that seven women die every day in Kenya from unsafe abortions.

Strikingly, nearly one-third of women who procure abortion do not care that it is illegal. According to Murigi Kamande, a lawyer, abortion is outlawed, save for certain instances such as when, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger.

“Section 159 of the Penal Code provides that any woman who procures an abortion outside the boundaries stipulated by the law shall be guilty of a felony and will be liable to imprisonment for seven years upon conviction by a court of law,” he says.

The effects of unsafe abortions and the legal and moral dilemma in Kenya are exemplified by the case of an 18-year-old girl identified as JMM who died in 2018.

JMM died after suffering complications from an unsafe abortion. In 2014, at the age of 15, JMM had procured an abortion after getting raped and falling pregnant. The abortion cost her Sh1,500 from a chemist who used metal rods to terminate the pregnancy. Her legal guardian, identified as PKM, received a call informing her JMM was vomiting and bleeding profusely at a clinic where she had sought medical attention after procuring the abortion. While JMM received post abortion care at numerous hospitals, she sustained a chronic kidney disease that eventually claimed her life in June 2018.

Following JMM’s predicament, the Centre for Reproductive Rights filed a case challenging the government’s withdrawal of Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya.

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The guidelines cover among others prevention of unwanted pregnancies through contraception, and prevention and management of unsafe abortion. They state that facilities providing sexual and reproductive health services should have protocols for providing abortion services to survivors of sexual violence and all termination of pregnancy should be carried out in a health facility with appropriate equipment, but in accordance with the article 26 (4) of the Constitution.

In a landmark ruling by the High Court on June 12 last year, termed abortion illegal, save for certain instances. However, the judges also ruled that any Kenyan woman can go to a licensed health facility and procure an abortion on the basis these guidelines. This ruling effectively restored the abortion guidelines withdrawn by the Health ministry in February 2014.

“The withdrawal of the national guidelines on safe abortion amounts to discrimination, violated right to life, violated the rights of women and adolescent girls, violated access to information, consumer rights as well as having access to scientific progress,” they judges ruled.

Despite abortions being undertaken in the tens of thousands every year, the number of cases reported to the authorities remain acutely low. This suggests unsafe abortions occur unnoticed by the national legal apparatus. For example, according to the Economic Survey 2019 report, only 18 cases of procured abortions were reported to the police.

Nonetheless, Dr Thuthwa says for many women, procuring an abortion is not so much about the legality of the process, but the morality and stigma associated with it.

“No woman wants to walk down the street bearing the abortion tag. The stigma associated with abortion is one of the reasons women are reporting the effects of unsafe abortions when it is already too late for post-abortion care,” she says.

In the Marie Stopes survey, 56 per cent of women who confessed having an abortion took abortion pills while 44 per cent had surgical abortion. However, more women faced difficulties in meeting the actual cost of the abortion.

In Kenya, Marie Stopes International is one of the facilities that provides post-abortion care services. Post abortion care service providers have been on the spotlight for many reasons. For example, in 2018, Marie Stopes was ordered to stop providing abortion related services by the Health ministry over what was termed running abortion-by-choice adverts. The ban was, however, lifted in 2018. Over the three weeks the ban was in effect, the clinics reported turning away three women who needed post-abortion care services.

By Nation.

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The Sh1bn SGR grass



The beautiful grass dotting the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) stations and some sections of the line cost the taxpayer Sh1 billion.

And when Kenyans were fed the narrative that the Chinese contractors were living in temporary containers, the reality was that they were earning top dollar and living large behind the walls of the SGR.

The airtime allowance for the lead engineer was Sh5 million, for the three years the project was under construction. Even if the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) engineer was on phone 24 hours every day for the 36 months, the airtime would never have been exhausted.

His house was furnished at a cost of Sh3 million and office computers bought at Sh280,000 each, while his laser jet printers cost a staggering Sh513,700 each. In total, the taxpayer forked out Sh57 million to provide office furniture.

Additionally, Kenyans spent Sh239 million to provide entertainment for the expatriate staff during their time in the country.

These details are just the tip of the iceberg. We can now lift the lid on why Kenya’s railway ended up being one of the most expensive on the continent.

Details of the costs are contained in the contracts signed between Kenya and the Chinese builder and financier of the SGR project that the Nation has obtained. Some of these costs were flagged down long before the project started.

But the big puzzle is, if small costs that could easily have been verified on the Internet or in shops here in Kenya were heavily inflated and still passed the scrutiny of the drafters, what about the more technical items in the contract?

However, the Kenya Railways team had, as early as 2011, said that the costs of some of the items in the contract were way too high. Something could have happened that changed their initial position.

What followed was an overpricing of several components of the contracts. The overpricing was even discussed in a June 25, 2012 meeting, but this only earned Kenya a price reduction of Sh3 billion on the total contract.

“Kenya Railways team considers the unit prices of certain items too high and discussed adjustments with CRBC,” says minute seven of the meeting between Kenyan negotiators and the Chinese contractor.

Some of the exaggerated prices for items include station loudspeakers for Sh28,800, video cabinets (Sh1.14 million), workshop benches (Sh180,000), ticketing system (Sh8.4 million each), air conditioners (Sh1.9 million), portable radios (Sh119,100) and digital voice recorders (Sh341,500).

Digital voice recorders cost as little as Sh2,000 in Nairobi. These small costs here and there multiplied by the number of the gadgets being bought added up to billions of shillings.

CRBC also billed Kenyans Sh38 million to install a passenger guiding system, Sh14.6 million for each security system at the railway stations, Sh26 million for each luggage inspection system and Sh14 million for passenger monitoring systems at the stations.

The company also said it bought 46 A3 laser printers at Sh513,700 each for use at the stations during construction. The Nairobi station received five of these printers. These printers currently cost between Sh40,000 and Sh75,000.

Each of the intermediary stations also got a 30KW generator for use in case of power outage; Mombasa and Nairobi got two. The diesel generators, according to the contracts, were acquired at Sh4.26 million each. When the Nation asked around, we were told we could have one for Sh1.5 million.

Additionally, Kenyans paid Sh5.4 million for each of the 31 boreholes dug by CRBC in the intermediate stations. The Sh5.4 million is for drilling alone minus equipping and commissioning. The entire SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi has seven stations, which means each one was supposed to have three boreholes, a geological impossibility.

CRBC also said it needed to import six ZX7 DC/AC arc-welding machines as each station needed six of these for construction. These, according to CRBC, were bought at Sh442,872 each. We were able to get the same for Sh25,000 from Chinese manufacturers.

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The SGR’s Mombasa Terminus in Miritini. The beautiful grass dotting the stations and along some sections of the line cost the taxpayer Sh1 billion. KEVIN ODIT | NATION

The air conditioners for the computer rooms for the Nairobi and Mombasa stations were bought for Sh1.9 million. The Nairobi station, according to the contractor, needed 50 of these while Mombasa needed 30.

All the stations got a Sh4.5 million vehicle for the electrical engineer, which was shipped into the country without payment of stamp duty. The Mombasa and Nairobi stations each got a 45-seater bus bought for Sh25 million, a 12-seater minibus (Sh12 million) and a 1.5-tonne double cab pick-up for Sh3.5 million.

All these prices were exaggerated. A state-of-the-art 45-seater bus costs an average of Sh15 million today, but a majority are about Sh10 million.

This explains how Kenya ended up paying two times more for a diesel train than what Tanzania negotiated for an electric train. A comparison of the costs shows that Tanzania is building an electric rail at half the price of Kenya’s diesel SGR line.

The Syokimau SGR station. FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION

At $1.92 billion, which translates to about Sh192 billion at current exchange rates, for the 422 kilometres, Tanzania’s line is not just cheaper; being electric, it’s designed to support a maximum speed of 160km/hour for passenger trains and 120km/hour for freight.

This pales in comparison to Kenya’s line, whose passenger trains have a maximum speed of 120km/hour with freight hauliers doing 80km/hour at best.

Kenya opted for diesel-powered engine that can be upgraded into electric in future.

It is the results of this greed and negligence that taxpayers are now paying for.

Currently, the revenues generated from the passenger and cargo services on the track cannot meet the operation costs, estimated at Sh1.5 billion a month against average sales of only Sh841 million.

Whereas the official cost of the project was put at Sh327 billion, the open-ended nature of these contracts allowed some variations in the bill of quantities and, if these were allowed, then Kenya may have spent a little bit more than that.

Interestingly, while the Supply and Installations of Facilities, Locomotives and Rolling Stock contract was done in US dollars, the ”Civil Works” contract was in Kenya shillings. Additionally, the portion of repayment for the Sh220,921,502,221.08-worth civil works contract is supposed to be paid back in US dollars.

The Supply and Installations of Facilities, Locomotives and Rolling Stock contract that was signed in US dollars amounts to $1,146,791,008.75 (Sh114.6 billion). The two contracts together cost $3,356,006,030.21 (Sh335 billion).

This cost does not reflect the interest on the loan, the 20 per cent depreciation of the currency and the Sh11.7 billion paid for land acquisition, which was marred by corruption and overpricing. The contracts also say the cost is exclusive of value added tax, import declaration fees, cess and withholding tax, which would push it higher. This means that the taxpayer has forgone billions of shillings in tax revenue which, if factored in the cost, would give a different picture. Not many companies have earned billions of shillings in Kenya tax-free like the SGR contractor.

The fact that the money moved directly from China Exim Bank to CRBC accounts denied the country any benefits that would have trickled in on account of local purchases.

“The buyer (Kenya) shall pay those amounts due to the seller (CRBC) which are financed by the financial institutions of China to the seller (CRBC) through the financial institutions of China,” the contract says.

Transporters want Cabinet Secretary James Macharia compelled to file in court a copy of an agreement between Kenya and the Chinese government for the construction of the standard gauge railway.

The Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) has questioned the directive issued by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) requiring that all cargo imported through the Mombasa port be transported to Nairobi exclusively on SGR.

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They argue that the directive was not only meant to generate income from the transport service but also to maximise it through granting a monopoly to Kenya Railways to transport containers.

“It is therefore fundamental to interrogate the directive from its very foundation, being the agreement for the construction of the SGR by the Chinese government,” argues KTA through its lawyers Gikandi and Company Advocates.

“Since the agreement is not in the public domain and is therefore inaccessible by the public, it will be proper and just if the court orders that the agreement be awarded to the petitioner and the court.”

In essence, this meant that there was no trickle-down effect of this huge loan of the project on the local economy as the Chinese imported almost everything for the project, including small things like toilet paper, toothpicks and sugar.

All custom duties and charges on importation of equipment of parts and materials, etc, shall be exempted by the employer.”

But even worse is the fact that CRBC was given a leeway to adjust the prices of individual components of the contract by making the bill of quantities non-binding.

“The contract price is to be adjusted for rises or falls in the cost of labour, goods and other inputs to the works by the addition or deduction of amounts,” says the contract.

Even in areas where the government would have recouped part of the cost by taxing the equipment being imported by the Chinese, it did not.

“All custom duties and charges on importation of equipment of parts and materials, etc, shall be exempted by the employer.”

For the last 13 months, Kenyans have been waiting for President Kenyatta to make public the contents of the SGR contracts signed between the government and the Chinese financiers and contractors as promised in December 2018.

And, while the President is yet to honour his promise, which would have put to rest speculation that Kenyans got the short end of the stick on the financing and building of the SGR, the government has been trying to review the contract behind the scenes.

It is understood that after President Kenyatta made the promise to make public the contract, the office of the Attorney-General and the Transport ministry explained to State House the implication of such a ”breach of contract” given that it explicitly said the contract would not be made public.

Just why such a big contract that would burden taxpayers for decades to come became a secret document is puzzling.

The Nation reported last month how the team tasked with reviewing the skewed contract had hit a dead end. This is after CRBC refused to provide key information protected by the confidentiality clauses in the contract.

The team comprised officials from the Presidential Delivery Unit, the Office of the Attorney-General, Kenya Railways, Ministry of Transport, the National Treasury and CRBC. It was led by then Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett.

“Publicity and disclosure of any kind hereto to any third party not involved in the present contract requires the written approval of the other party. Such an approval shall be required after the performance of the present contract,” a clause in the contract says.

Government spending is guided by, among several statutes, the Access to Information Act, which is supposed to enhance accountability, transparency, and public participation.

Why the State decided to enter into a confidential contract with a foreign company and financier on how to spend taxpayers cash on a public project is still an unanswered question.

Meanwhile, taxpayers have begun paying through the nose for the mistakes they committed either out of ignorance or by design after Kenya decided to go it alone following the withdrawal of Uganda from the project.

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The first Sh25 billion of the Sh324 billion borrowed from China for phase one of the railway was due last month. Another Sh25 billion will fall due in June. Treasury has set aside Sh35 billion in the supplementary budget to take care of the repayment to China’s Exim Bank.

Retired President Mwai Kibaki met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on October 28, 2008, regarding the SGR. It was mutually agreed that the railway line would be a white elephant if Kenya decided to go it alone.

This position changed after brokers introduced CRBC to the Kenyan government in 2009. In 2008, two Kenyans — Leonard Mwangi Ndungu and Peter Maingi Gatere — had registered a company with a similar name, China Road and Bridge Corporation Kenya, with registration number C 166624. When this became public, the Registrar of Companies was ordered to deregister the company.

And while the Kenyan government has always maintained that the SGR was a government-to-government contract, hence there was no need for competitive bidding, the contracts show the deals were entered with CRBC and China Exim Bank.

What was a grand dream that would have connected Mombasa to Kampala is a railway to nowhere that ends in a bush near a cattle market that is inaccessible when it rains.

The death of this dream, it appears, began on June 25, 2012 when a team of nine negotiators — five from Kenya and four from CRBC — sat to discuss the components of a feasibility study on the viability of the SGR.

On the Kenyan side were Mr Solomon Ouna, and Mr David Mwadali, both engineers, Mr Alfred Matheka, Ms Maryanne Kitany and Mr Stanley Gitari.

“The Government of Kenya and CRBC signed a memorandum of understanding on August 12, 2009 for the feasibility study and preliminary design of the Mombasa-Nairobi section of the Standard Gauge Railway which has been completed to the satisfaction of the Kenya technical team,” say minutes from the meeting.

“CRBC and Kenya Railways now need to enter into a common contract,” add the minutes.

And like vultures waiting on the sidelines for pieces of meat to drop out of a plate, the first commercial contract for civil works was signed in a record 15 days after the results of the feasibility study were adopted on July 11, 2012.

Ideally, such a huge contract, despite being a government-to-government deal as the State has always maintained, requires time for naming negotiating teams, a board meeting by the concerned authority, followed by seeking and getting approvals from the ministry concerned and the Attorney-General.

This is even before you factor the time needed to draft a bill of quantities for the construction at hand plus the time needed for technical teams from both sides and lawyers to draft and look at the details in the contracts before they are presented for signing.

So were the necessary procedures followed as required by law in such a short time? What we now know is that in total, Kenya signed four contracts for the first phase of the SGR — two of them during the grand coalition government and the last two immediately after Jubilee took office.

The first one with CRBC for civil works was signed on July 11, 2012. The second one for the supply of locomotives and rolling stock was also signed with CRBC a month later on August 29, 2012. The third one for financing the project was signed with China Exim Bank on May 11, 2014.

And when they were done with building the railway, imported the locomotives and rolling stock, the next avenue of making money was the operation contract.

This contract was also handed to CRBC. It would later hand this over to its subsidiary — Africa Star Railway Operation Company Limited — to carry out the day-to-day running of the train service.

BY Nation 

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