Kenya opens Nairobi-Mombasa Madaraka Express railway
Kenya has opened a major new railway between the port city of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi, 18 months early.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said during the launch that the $3.2bn (£2.5bn) Chinese-funded line signalled a new chapter in the country.
He warned that he would authorise the execution of vandals after four people were arrested damaging sections of a guardrail.
It is Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since independence.
The 470km (290 miles) line is part of China’s Belt and Road initiative of massive global infrastructure projects.
The railway is supposed to eventually connect land-locked South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean.
Last week, Mr Kenyatta secured an additional $3.6bn from China to extend the railway line 250km (155 miles) west from the central town of Naivasha to Kisumu.
The railway may be Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since independence but it is also a part of a strategic plan for China to deepen its economic links in Africa.
A concessionary loan from China will pay for 80% of the cost.
The loan has a 10-year grace period, within which the railway line is expected to have started to generate income. The repayments will then be spread over 30-40 years.
The Mombasa-Nairobi line is the first phase of a 840km (525 mile) line linking the port city of Mombasa to the western border town of Malaba.
The Chinese will be in charge of the new railway line for some time, while Kenyans are being trained to take over.
During the Belt and Road Forum for International Corporation meeting on 15 May, Mr Kenyatta asked China to ensure a win-win situation in its economic relationship with Kenya, as the country formally joined the infrastructure initiative.