Kenyan govt defends China against charges of racism on SGR

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The Kenyan government says it will investigate allegations that local staff working for a Chinese-run railway line have been subjected to racist abuse.

Several people went to social media platforms to accuse The China Road and Bridge Corporation of racial discrimination and harassment by the Chinese staff. Those reports were later picked up by several news outlets in Nairobi and throughout Kenya. The China Road and Bridge Company, which built and operates the Madaraka Express line between Nairobi and Mombasa, has yet to publicly respond to the matter but Kenyan government spokesman, Eric Kiraithe has.  He said the running of a railway required military standard discipline and further suggested some Kenyan staff had a poor work ethic – a comment that angered many Kenyans.

“We are now running about six trains daily; when you delay one of those for 30 minutes you cripple the entire system,” he observed.

The workers are also reported to be protesting a new secrecy code which they said was designed to muzzle them. Mr. Kiraithe defended the railway management for executing a code of secrecy saying the document would not in any way prejudice the rights of Kenyan workers.

“A railway line is a critical infrastructure and a security installation for that matter. It would require a high level of discipline that most organizations – including airports – would require.”

So far no formal complaints of racism have been filed but the government is considering a proposal by the Central Organization of Trade Union to have a labour officer monitor operations at SGR to address any concerns.

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