Tanzania and Burundi yesterday reportedly signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which a direct rail link will be constructed to connect Tanzania’s central rail line to Bujumbura.
Prior to the diplomatic spat between Tanzania and Rwanda, caused by flippant remarks made by President Kikwete that Rwanda should sit down with the FDLR killer militias and negotiate a peace deal – impossible considering that the FDLR is sworn to destroy the new Rwanda and bring back the policies of genocide – Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi had been on the same wavelength to expand a railway line from Tanzania’s Isaka to Kigali and on to Bujumbura. That well-intentioned project, even though funding had already been lined up, has gone silent when in a new spirit of active and determined cooperation Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda signed various agreements to build a standard gauge railway from the port of Mombasa via Nairobi to Uganda’s capital of Kampala and on to Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.
It, however, appears that this latest deal of the two East African Community member states, which are now often called the ‘Coalition of the Unwilling’ was launched to counter the railway plans of the other three member states, in either a snub or else serving notice that the two can go it alone should need arise.
The new proposed railway line, which reportedly is due to cost over a trillion Tanzania Shillings, will connect Tanzania’s Uvinza with Burundi’s Msongati and it is further understood that the option to expand the new line into the Congo DR has been left open, as Tanzania is playing her political cards of forming her own transport corridor. This is seen to be done with the intent to compete with the northern transport axis from Kenya via Uganda and beyond, which includes also options to add on South Sudan, Eastern Congo and of course Rwanda, which is part and parcel of the standard gauge railway project.
With the flurry of railway projects – a similar deal Tanzania signed to link the proposed new port near Tanga with a railway line to an equally new port in Musoma, Lake Victoria, and then connect by rail ferry to Uganda has also gone silent since the deck of cards in East Africa were reshuffled last year – it is now the question which ones will find willing financiers as, should all of them be built, the financial returns in the near and medium future, would be nowhere near to justify the expense, so here, as everywhere in East Africa, it is wait and see who and which project will in the end carry the day.