Kenya Railways has responded following a damning exposé run by the Standard on Sunday, exposing alleged racism and mistreatment of Kenyan workers at the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Investigations by the local daily reportedly unearthed harsh working conditions for Kenyan workers, including discrimination, racism, and harassment by the Chinese staff.
For instance, Kenyan employees are not allowed to share tables with the Chinese counterparts in the restaurant. Kenyans reportedly indicated that there is an unwritten rule that Kenyans are not allowed to share tables with the Chinese counterparts in the cafeteria.
“Racism is so real here. There is an unwritten rule of where you need to sit. You cannot just join the Chinese table,” an assistant locomotive driver is quoted as saying.
The daily also reported that Kenyan drivers have taken charge of the 472-kilometer ride just once: during the project’s launch with when two female drivers, Alice Gitau and Concilia Owire, made the trip.
When the cameras and VIPs exited the scene, the Chinese drivers took back control. Kenyans have never again been allowed to navigate the passengers from either end of the train track, reported Standard.
Those who were trained two years ago in anticipation of rising the ranks have remained assistant shunting drivers since the launch of Madaraka Express and only sit and watch as the Chinese drivers cruise to the coast and back.
“We just sit at the back and watch. There is no actual transfer of skills that is happening here,” an assistant locomotive driver who has been with the SGR for over a year now told the Sunday Standard.
The Chinese contractor has also allegedly opted to keep most of their equipment programmed in Chinese, making it impossible for Kenyans who are not conversant with Chinese to progress beyond menial jobs, despite being employed as technicians, engineers, and drivers.
The piece has prompted Kenya Railways to launch investigations saying that action will be taken if anyone is found culpable.
In a statement on Monday, Kenya Railways managing Director Atanas Maina said the agency has also instructed the SGR operator – China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) – to submit a report on the mistreatment claims for a critical review.
Read the full statement below.