Kenyan President dismisses reports of Chinese takeover

Financial arrangements behind Belt and Road projects have drawn much criticism, explaining the president’s sensitivity to rumours China wants to take over Mombasa Port

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta blasts as propaganda reports that China could move to take over Mombasa Port were the country to fall behind with its debt payments.

During a televised interview with reporters at the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenyatta said the country was up to date with debt repayments on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), and that debt packages signed with China were affordable, and that new infrastructure would benefit economic development.

Kenyatta was responding to speculation that Mombasa Port was used as collateral on SGR loans, saying that he remains willing to release the contract signed between the Kenyan government and China Eximbank.

He explained that the contract between Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) calls for the transportation of cargo via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) wherever possible. The initial agreement called for six cargo train movements per day on the SGR in the first year of service, but that this target has been easily exceeded, with service levels close to doubled.

The President added that the government would continue to borrow from China and other countries in order to develop much needed infrastructure.

Rumours about Mombasa Port come at a time when the US is attacking Chinese policy in Africa. In December, the US launched its new Africa Strategy, a policy pursued in direct opposition to Belt & Road.

National Security Advisor John Bolton made an aggressive speech calling out both China and Russian activities in Africa. He cited debts racked up by African countries, and accused China of planning to take control of assets whenever countries struggle with debt repayments. He cited Chinese involvement in Djibouti Port on the Horn of Africa as one major cause for concern with regard to US security.

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