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Q&A: What Role Did Domestic Politics Play in the Development of the Chinese-Built SGR in Kenya?

The embattled Chinese-financed and constructed Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya that now faces a critical test as to whether it will be able to survive the worsening economic crisis. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

Beginning next May, Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway will be “fully owned and run by Kenyans” declared Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani at a graduation ceremony last week for 2,057 students from the country’s Railway Training Institute.

Until now, much of the $6 billion railway has been managed by Afristar, a subsidiary of the China Road and Bridge Corporation that financed and built the rail line. But as part of an effort to reduce expenses, Kenya Railways last year took advantage of a clause in the contract that stated after five years KR would have the option to assume responsibility for ticketing, maintenance, security and other services that have been handled by Afristar.

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