The Kenyan government has asked Kenyans to “bear with the Chinese” who are facing accusations of racism and discrimination in the running of the Standard Gauge Railway, according to reports from allafrica.
Eric Kiraithe, a spokesman for the government, on Wednesday said Kenyans, including those facing maltreatment, should “appreciate the work” the Chinese are doing.
The China Road and Bridge Corporation, the builder and operator of the line, stands accused of discriminating Kenyan workers in unemployment, assignments, salary, sitting arrangement, catering and personal hygiene services among others. The Kenyans are expected to take over the running of the rail service in 10 years.
But without giving details, Mr Kiraithe said the Uhuru Kenyatta administration had put in place “systems” to resolve issues surrounding the operations of Madaraka Express passenger service and the cargo train. He downplayed allegations of mistreatment but added that investigations into the claims were ongoing.
Instead of painting the multi-billion-shilling project in bad light, the spokesman said, Kenyan staff should expose the specific individuals who allegedly mistreated them.
“We have put all measures to deal with these issues, but if you are a Kenyan who claim to have [been] mistreated and you have not reported to police and have not reported to Fida, then you have to,” Mr Kiraithe told journalists in the capital Nairobi.
And while acknowledging that the government had received some complaints on racism, he said action will be taken against foreigners found culpable of discriminating against locals. Mr Kiraithe blamed unnamed persons, accusing them of being as detractors who are out to slow down the Vision 2030 flagship project.
SGR is one of the signature projects of the Jubilee government and its success is critical to the legacy of President Kenyatta, who is serving his second and final term, and political future of his deputy William Ruto. Mr Kiraithe said handover of the SGR, which is one of the issues raised by the Kenyan staff, would be done in three phases.
“It will be done in three, five and fully in 10 years,” he said.
The government, he said, took the first batch of Kenyans for training in China in preparation of the handover of Madaraka Express.
So far, he said, 1,624 Kenyans have been employed to work with the Madaraka Express and that the Chinese staff are half Kenyan workers.
Local staff have also raised the alarm in the killing of wildlife in the Tsavo ecosystem, rekindling memories of the spirited fight environmentalists staged against the passing of railway line through the national park.
But Mr Kiraithe defended the China Road and Bridge Corporation, saying the killing of wildlife “was not intentional”.
He also asked local staff working on SGR to stop using social media to discuss and air their dissatisfactions, claiming “it is a standard practice globally”.
His claim comes a day after it emerged that the China Road and Bridge Corporation last month asked Kenya staff to sign secrecy and non-disclosure agreements.