Kenya – Conservationists Lament Railway Plans

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The central section of a huge infrastructure project is to cut directly across East Africa’s oldest national park.

The Nairobi National Park, a wildlife reserve housing lions, hyenas and giraffes just 7km from the centre of Nairobi, is currently in the midst of proposed plans to build a Chinese-funded railway across what is the oldest park in East Africa.

The edges of the park have slowly been eaten away by development and expansion, with power lines stretching overland and pipelines underground. New housing estates also obstruct key migration routes for wildlife, which lead to other nature reserves such as the Maasai Mara.

According to head of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, Sidney Kamanzi, in the 1970s and 1980s around 30,000 wildebeest came to the area, now the numbers are in the region of 300.

The proposed railway line is to be elevated across 6km of the park, on pillars between 8m and 40m tall. Conservationists have deplored the plans, calling it a step too far and claiming the consequences will be disastrous.

UK-based BBC News commented that the new railway project could be a new ‘lunatic line,’ referring to thousands of workers who were killed building railways in the country at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries; around 100 people were killed by lions, while a further 4000 died of diseases.

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BBC News 

The railway is part of planned upgrades to the national network linking the Mombasa port to Nairobi and onwards to regional neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan; it is the largest infrastructure project in the country since independence in 1963.

The second stage of construction, from Nairobi to Naivasha – crossing the park – is seen as the most problematic; many had hoped that the railway would skirt around the park, but according to the government the costs of this were just too high.

Works on the elevated sections are scheduled to begin in January 2017 lasting around 18 months, although in stages to avoid cutting off parts of the park completely. However conservationists have deplored the lack of impact study and disregard for the natural environment.

“If the railway (line) is authorised, it could create a precedent that could mean the death of the park,” said Sidney Quntai, who heads the Kenyan Coalition for the Conservation and Management of Fauna.

On October 3rd a group of Maasi women from Oloosirkon, Kitenkela, Emakoko and Embakasi villages presented a petition to President Uhuru Kenyatta. An environmental tribunal in mid-September ruled against the railway line in the national park until a case had been heard, but the government continues to hold public hearings.

“The processions are not against infrastructure projects. We don’t want those that are poorly thought out, environmentally unsound and abuse our natural heritage like having SGR pass through the park,”  one of the protest organisers, Nkamuno Patita, said, reported Kenyan media service, The Star.

Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), tried to reassure protesters who recently delivered a petition; “We will be working with the contractor to make sure the construction will be as least disruptive as possible and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he said.

However, Kenyan economist David Ndii said, “It’s a white elephant – we don’t need it…It’s not necessary, its overpriced. Its the most expensive single project we have done and it’s not economically viable now or in the future,” reported BBC News.

(© AFP 30/9 2016)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21362B–21363B

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya – Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp.21325C–21327A

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21181A–21182A

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Africa – Piracy

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Frequency of attacks drops in East Africa but kidnappings rise in the Gulf of Guinea – AU says seaport security crucial.

On July 26th the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), part of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said that piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, with only one incident in the last six months.

However, the IMB stated that it “believes that a single successful hijacking of a merchant vessel, will rekindle the Somali pirates’ passion to resume its piracy efforts.” The organisation added that Somali pirates continue to hold 29 crew members for ransom as of June 30th, reported Somali news service Shabelle.

A Netherlands-based firm, Atlantic Marine and Offshore Group, which was contracted to build six ships for the Somali Coast Guard in July 2013, is close to delivering the vessels and will also train the navy tasked with operating the ships, which is expected to take 5-6 more years. The vessels will be used to combat piracy, illegal fishing, waste dumping, and weapons deliveries to the al-Shabaab group.

Somali ambassador to the European Union (EU), Dr Ali Sa’id Faqi, said the creation of a coastguard represented a historic leap for Somalia and the government had signed an agreement with Netherlands-based Atlantic Marine and Offshore Group to train Somali coastguard personnel, reported Dalsan Radio.

IMB’s global piracy report recorded 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. In 2010 and 2003, the IMB recorded around 445 attacks a year. The IMB has a live piracy incident feed, available here.

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NATO Counter-Piracy Troops, Somalia CC – 2012.

Despite a drop in East Africa the IMB report noted there had been a surge of kidnappings off West Africa, with 44 crew members kidnapped in 2016. China on July 28th announced plans to support infrastructural development in the Gulf of Guinea to help in the fight against piracy.

On July 25th the African Union’s (AU) African Day of the Seas and Oceans focused on the theme, ‘Maritime Governance for Sustainable Development’. Seaports are crucial to African economies but are easily accessible to criminals, pirates and drug smugglers.

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) the low standard of living for populations living near to the ports can fuel port insecurity. Reports show that African ports often fail to meet the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code.

According to ISS the government in many countries seems to lack commitment to protect coasts and did not have maritime strategies in place, or if they did, they were not implemented satisfactorily.

In the Gulf of Guinea, the ISS reported that only two out of the planned maritime coordination centres are operational and while there had been some successes in Operation Prosperity by Benin and Nigeria, inter-state joint patrols are still at an experimental stage. (BBC News 13-17/7; Dalsan Radio 17/7; ISS 26/7; Shabelle 26/7; Xinhua 29/7)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Piracy
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.21217A

Piracy – Drop in Recorded Cases
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 2, Pp.21180C

Somalia – Piracy [Free to Access]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue. 11, Pp.21076B

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Cameroon – Kribi Port to Ease Congestion

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New port infrastructure is an essential part of the government’s development vision.

A loan of US$675.5m, recently approved by the Chinese EXIM bank, is to fund the second phase of construction at the Kribi Deep Seaport, coming as a major boost to the Vision 2035 document, which seeks to unlock mining potential, create jobs and enhance trade.

According to Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Louis Paul Motaze, cited by CAJNews, “we are not expected to pay any interest on the money within the next seven years…the port will be a centre of trade for the entire region, and will service landlocked Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).”

A construction contract was awarded earlier in August 2015 to a consortium comprising Bolloré Africa Logistics, CMA CGM, and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), for the construction of a new container terminal. It is hoped the facility will ease congestion at Douala port, reported trade and container news service JOC.

The planned second phase of construction will involve a new 1,102-metre quay, two container berths, two hydrocarbon berths and two bulk cargo berths; it is expected to take 42 months to complete. According to Motaze a third phase will involve the construction of 12 more berths in the northern part of the port.

The Kribi port is intended to fill the gaps at the Douala port; the new port will be to a depth of 16 metres, whereas the Douala port is just 7 metres deep, having to be dredged every year to enable large ships to dock. The Kribi port will accommodate vessels of up to 100,000 tons, up from 15,000 at Douala.

Container and car shipping to Douala, Cameroon

Douala Port – Ascope Shipping, UK

An estimated 95% of Cameroon’s exports pass through Douala; one shipping employee commented that it is “one of the most disastrous port sites in the world” with chronic congestion and a lack of modern equipment, reported the the Africa Report.

Additionally, the facility will cater for minerals such as iron ore and bauxite in the south east of the country. Australia’s Sundance Resources are to build an iron-processing plant for the ore it will mine at Mbalam and Nabeba, which are located near the border between Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.

There is project underway to develop the 510km railway from Mbalam to Kribi for the iron ore export. The contract for the railway project was awarded to Portuguese company Mota-Engil SGPS. The Portuguese firm is also planning a further 71km stretch of railway from Mbalam to Nabeba in the Republic of Congo.

Société Camerounaise des Dépôts Pétroliers and Canadian firm Blaze Energy plan to build an oil storage station at Kribi. French company GDF-Suez and Cameroon’s Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures are working on plans for a liquefied natural gas plant.

Since 2009 Rio Tinto has planned to build an  US$9bn alumina refinery at Kribi with a capacity to produce 1.2m tonnes per year. More than 30 companies in the metals, petrochemicals, cement, agro-industrial and logistics sectors have requested land for projects in Kribi, claimed the Africa Report.

The port is a central part of the Chinese ‘Silk Road Initiative‘ in Africa, with the Kribi port spearheading the projects, alongside railway projects in Kenya, Ethiopia and Angola, according to the Financial Express. The port is a key component of Cameroon’s Vision 2035, which aims to establish Cameroon as an emerging country over the next 25-30 years.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

PORTS AND SHIPPING: West Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp. 20857A–20858A

PORTS AND SHIPPING: Kenya-East Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue. 6, Pp. 20893C–20894B

PORTS AND SHIPPING: Gulf of Guinea
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.5, Pp. 20424A–20426B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today