The 200km of entirely new railway to link Rwanda with Uganda is going to cost about $US1.5 billion. Where this is to be sourced remains unclear: the government is said to be “still lining up the financing”. The project seems unlikely to receive support from Britain, whose Department for International Development (DfID) recently withdrew aid to the Rwandan government, apparently after allegations that the country was supporting M23 rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since Rwanda has no railway, its imports as well as export mineral and agricultural traffic – notably coffee and tea – depend currently on road haulage over indifferent roads. It is hoped to run passenger trains too, though the necessary operating subsidy would place a continuing burden on state resources. In Uganda the line will meet the new railway being constructed from there through Kenya to Mombasa. This will provide Rwanda’s capital Kigali with a direct rail connection – 2,935km in length – on 1,435mm gauge to the sea. Funding has been secured from China for the $3.7bn Mombasa-Nairobi section, with construction reportedly due to begin in November. The existing metre gauge line from the Ugandan capital Kampala to Mombasa continues in use, the operation concessioned to Rift Valley Railways. Intentions for the future of this line have not been divulged.