When the Standard Gauge Railway, SGR phase one was completed in May 2017, Kenyans were hopeful that the multi-billion project which had siphoned their taxes dry, was going to reciprocate by hiring and providing employment in the country.
The SGR has so far made journeys between the coastal town of Mombasa and Nairobi not only faster but also by providing scenic views across the Tsavo wilderness as one descends towards the Indian Ocean.
But beneath this shiny veneer is a tale of pain, anguish, and broken dreams for a multitude of Kenyans who feel trapped on the edge as their rights to work for the Railway firm as Kenyans are slowly taken away.
Three years later, the much-hyped project is now turning a curse to the Kenyan citizens after reports emerged on how Afristar, the SGR operator has flashed out Kenyan employees and technically locked them out as they employ more Chinese nationals.
It is reported that the Chinese bosses and nationals have created a small Beijing kingdom in which they run roughshod over Kenyan workers, who say they are experiencing neo-colonialism, racism, and blatant discrimination in as far as employment in the multi-billion project is concerned.
According to concerns from sacked Kenyans, their tribulations began in March this year during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to The Kenyan Herald, one of the victims narrated how Afristar, a Chinese-based firm that runs SGR operations, controversially sent home a big number of employees (Mostly Kenyans) leaving behind foreign nationals (Chinese citizens).
It is reported that the Kenyan employees were sent home on compulsory leave, then later issued with contracts containing slashed salaries. The company paid the employees 50% of their basic salary and later reduced it to 30%.
Eventually, the company is reported to have sent the Kenyan employees on unpaid leave and upon the expiry of the contract, the company allegedly thwarted any efforts to renew their contracts.
Despite the prevailing condition (Covid-19) which the company cited as the reason behind the job losses, many Chinese nationals are said to have been employed to take the place of their Kenyan counterparts since March this year.
“Ever since then the Chinese nationals have been having a field day while Kenyans languish in poverty at home,” read part of the statement from a concerned victim who was sacked by the Chinese operator.
Angry Kenyans have continued calling out on the Kenya Railways for allegedly allowing the Chinese to continue intimidating Kenyans, whom the SGR was meant to benefit, with current estimations showing that hundreds of Kenyans are feared to have lost their jobs.
Here is one of the concerns raised by one of the affected victims sacked by the company;
Hello sir…. kindly hide my identity …..i work for the afristar railway company…..the company operating the standard gauge railway…. since the onset of the covid 19 a big number of employees were sent home then later issued with contracts containing slashed salaries, the company paid the employees 50% of their basic salary and later 30%.
some of the employees whose contracts have expired have not been renewed with no explanation.
since March the employees who were forced to take unpaid leaves have not been called to work even though the situation has changed and we still have the trains running day in day out.. the firm has continually brought in Chinese nationals keeping Kenyan employees at home without giving them any reason…. kindly help us air our suffering sir….. thank-you.
One might be tempted to think that the scenes below took place in Beijing but on the contrary, it just happened right here in Nairobi recently, fully graced with Chinese themes and writings;