It was interesting to see former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Farah Maalim strongly stand up for an argument similar to what Investment News made — that the standard gauge railway (SGR) will destroy the economies of the towns along Mombasa Road which are heavily dependent on the road transport.
Mr Maalim was a part of a three man AMLIVE NTV discussion panel which included the calmly disarming Kiambu County Senator Kimani Wamatangi and a brilliant young lawyer Joshua Kiptoo. In a wide ranging discussion assessing the achievements of the Jubilee government, Wamatangi argued that the SGR was a great achievement.
And Kiptoo pointed out that while the SGR may be truly a great achievement, it was necessary to take other relevant issues into account to estimate its true worth. For example, he pointed out, it was necessary to ask wither the railway line was priority, at what cost was it built and the quality of the trains among others issues.
Maalim added to this by pointing out, as Investment News had, the negative impact the SGR will have on the economies of hundreds of towns along Nairobi-Mombasa road. Within less than a week, the SGR had denied businesses in the towns nearly nine billion shillings worth of business.
It is true, as Wamatangi argues, progress must create structural adjustments, and the towns will eventually find their own equilibrium. The problem is that this natural process of adjustment may take eternity – it has taken Machakos town more than 100 years after a similar development side-lined it. Must this happen in this time and age when we are educated enough to plan so that we structure the adjustments in the new developments?
Think of the many people – millions of people – who will be affected starting with the transport companies, town businesses to the residents. They have needs like everyone else including Wamatangi – needs to clothe themselves and their families, to feed themselves and their families and to take children to school. It cannot make sense to say all the affected people will find new equilibrium.
So far, no government official has talked about the plans the government has – if any – to ensure the uninterrupted continuity and sustainability of these communities who economies will be affected.
We all agree, the country must develop. A cheap, fast train to Nairobi from Mombasa is an excellent idea. But common-sense should prevail to make us remember that the train is not displacing only wild life – it is displacing humans like us. It is inhuman and retrogressive to fail to do that. Indeed, there cannot be any merit is arguments that deny livelihoods to millions of Kenyans.