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Tanzania, Burundi to Jointly Build U$900m Railway

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Burundi and Tanzania are scheduled to jointly seek financing for construction of a standard gauge railway (SGR) line linking the two countries.

According to details, the two countries on Sunday inked a deal worth U$900 million to construct a 282-kilometre railway connecting from Tanzanian town of Uvinza to Burundi’s capital Gitega.

This ambitious memorandum of understanding was signed by Finance and transport ministers from the two countries in the western Tanzanian town of Kigoma.

Tanzania Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said the two governments will jointly seek financing for the railway. He hinted that the final cost “will likely not exceed $900 million.” He didn’t provide details on the source of financing.

From early 2013 Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania had expressed joint interest in building an interstate railway line linking the three countries. However, the intermittent politics of the region completely changed their plans.

For example Kenya was already building a SGR line and was expected to reach the Ugandan border from which Uganda would do its part linking up to Rwanda border.

Kampala decided to fund construction of the Tororo-Gulu Pakwach line first because of the big economic interests the country has in South Sudan. This technically placed Rwanda in a long waiting mode.

“Uganda wants to consider South Sudan because it is a bigger market, and this will definitely delay the Uganda-Rwanda line,” a Rwanda government official said then in 2015.

In August 2013, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda signed a tripartite agreement to fast-track the development of the SGR. Kenyan Ministry of Transport officials had said that Uganda’s priority was on the segment from Malaba to Kampala, followed by the northern segment from Tororo to Pakwach through Gulu because of business interest in South Sudan.

In 2015, the politics within Burundi turned messy as hundreds of thousands fled the country to neighbouring countries. The mess was brewed by President Pierre Nkurunziza seeking another term in office which violated the constitution.

Relations between Rwanda and Burundi also soured as both countries accused each other of sabortage. four years later in 2019, Rwanda and Uganda also faced off as both accused each other of supporting enemies.

Rwanda shutdown its border with Uganda and both countries have failed to reach a mediated agreement to cool off their anger. This shaky political situation has affected the construction of standard gauge railway (SGR) as previously planned.

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