Kagame’s Phantom Railway Is Back

By David Himbara

The Kagame railroad is back in the news. General Paul Kagame revived the rail fantasy on November 8, 2019. This is getting tiresome. He had previously stated that the construction of the 571km-long Kigali-Isaka standard gauge railway to connect to the Tanzanian seaport of Dar Es Salaam would begin in December 2018. The railroad was expected to cost $2.5 billion. Tanzania would pay US$1.3 billion. Rwanda would pay US$1.2 billion. The project was forgotten— until Kagame spoke of it again on November 8, 2019.

The Kagame Railway has been in the making for nearly 20 years

The Kagame railway goes back to 2000. Here are the highlights of the Kagame express.

  • 2000 — Kagame and his Burundian counterpart announced plans to build a rail line linking their two countries to Tanzania’s seaport of Dar es Salaam.
  • 2007 — A delegation from Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), an American corporation, met Kagame to discuss the Kigali-Isaka railway.
  • 2008 — Kagame announced that BNSF Railway was to build the Kigali-Isaka railroad.
  • 2009 — Kagame announced that the Kigali-Isaka railroad would be completed by 2013.
  • 2013 — Kagame joined the ”coalition of the willing” to build a railway linking Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan to the sea through Kenya’s port city of Mombasa.
  • 2017 — Kenya completed its new 472km standard gauge railway from Nairobi to Mombasa.
  • 2018 — Kagame announced that Rwanda would begin construction of the Kigali-Isaka railway linking Rwanda to the seaport of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • 2019— Kagame says the railway is still in the pipeline.

Stay tuned for more railway stories.