By Hellen Nachilongo
Former President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (2005-2015) revealed yesterday how the government decided to build the Standard Gauge Railway project (SGR) during the administration of his predecessor, Benjamin Mkapa (1995-2005).
He, however, commended the government of President John Magufuli (2015-2021), for bringing the idea into fruition. Mr Kikwete made the revelation yesterday when former presidents and prime ministers toured some sections of phases 1 and 2 of the SGR project.
Phase 1 runs from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro, while phase 2 runs from Morogoro to Makutupora in Dodoma.
Along with Mr Kikwete were retired President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, and former prime ministers Mizengo Pinda and John Malecela.
Also present during the tour were ministers Prof Palamagamba Kabudi (Constitution and Legal Affairs), Dr Medard Kalemani (Energy), and Dr Leonard Chamuriho (Works and Transport).
« During Mr Mkapa’s presidency and my regime, we conducted a lot of feasibility studies into the SGR subject; but we faced the challenge of funds with which to execute the project, » he said of the project which was on the government agenda for years.
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The plan was to build the SGR from Dar es Salaam to Kigali in Rwanda via Isaka to ease transportation of nickel from Kabanga.
The Kabanga nickel deposit is located in Ngara District, Kagera Region close to the Burundi and Rwanda borders. « But, now, the Isaka-Kigali section is vital because Kabanga is being developed, and there are nickel reserves be transported. »
Nickel is a key electric car battery material, and the Kabanga Nickel project, which is run by a UK-based mining firm Kabanga Nickel Ltd, is estimated to contain more than 1.52 million tonnes of nickel.
« We are happy, and sincerely appreciate that President John Magufuli started the SGR construction – and we also sincerely applaud President SamiaSuluhu Hassan for enabling progression of the project, » he said.
The Tanzania Railway’s Corporation (TRC) managing director, MasanjaKadogosa, said plans to construct the Isaka-Kigali phase were under way.
« We have already done a feasibility study from Isaka to Rusumo. The African Development Bank has also shown interest in funding the project, » he said.
He said actual construction will take off, depending on willingness of Rwanda which will be required to construct its part from Rusumo to Kigali.
He said discussions between Tanzania and Rwanda were in final stages.