The Kagame Phantom Railways

By David Himbara

Kagame lives in the air — on his luxury executive jet traveling to foreign capitals. He says the purpose of his travels is to raise money to build, among other things, the railroad to the sea to sharply reduce transport costs. This is well and good — except that the story keeps changing. Here are the twists and turns of Kagame phantom railways.

In 2008, Kagame promised to build a railway to link to the existing Tanzanian line at Isaka and onto the seaport of Dar Es Salaam. The railroad was to arrive in Rwanda by 2012. Kagame’s counterpart in Tanzania was President Kikwete. After Kagame threatened to hit Kikwete, the phantom express to Isaka/Dar was forgotten.

In 2013, Kagame fantasized his phantom express number two. He joined the “coalition of the willing.” The coalition of the willing comprised Kagame, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni, and Kenya’s head of state Uhuru Kenyatta. The coalition would build a railway from Kigali to Kampala and onto Mombasa. The phantom express number two is still on the drawing board.

On January 14, 2018, Kagame and Tanzania president John Magufuli announced the return of phantom railway number one. They say they will jointly construct a 400-kilometer long railway to connect Kigali to Isaka and onto the seaport of Dar Es Salaam.

And what is the cost of Kagame phantom railways? The Dar Es Salaam route will cost US$900 million. The Mombasa route will cost US$1.2 billion. Evidently, Kagame needs to increase his foreign trips to raise serious cash — US$2 billion is no small change.