Hard times ahead for Rift Valley Railways


KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – The beleaguered railway management company, which took over the Kenyan and Ugandan railways a while ago, seems in for another month of worries.

Having just had to cope with a staff strike in Kenya, the two governments now appear to have given the company deadlines, which will stretch their ability to the limit. Rift Valley Railways (RVR), which recently admitted two shareholders from the region, incidentally the same partners the main promoters had shut out over technicalities when the formal contracts had been signed, now needs to raise some US$40 million within a month and at least US$10 million more or less immediately, and show evidence to this effect.

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It was learned earlier that KFW, the German Development Bank, had apparently halted the disbursal of loan funds over unspecified concerns to the company, causing more headache for the company’s management.

A management change at the top was also on the demand list by Kenya and Ugandan government authorities, who clearly have lost enthusiasm and confidence for the RVR senior management and asked for a new CEO and chairman of the Board of RVR to be put into place immediately. That move happened in fact earlier in the week when former CEO Roy Puffet was sent packing and a new managing director was appointed.

Also new is the position of executive chairman, which is now held by Mr. Brown Ondego, a well-known Mombasa personality who previously turned the fortunes of the Kenya Ports Authority around and set KPA on the road to becoming a modern and well managed authority. In earlier years, Brown also represented cruise lines and handled the ocean liners when coming to Mombasa, among other key appointments.

How the management reshuffle will affect the joint management of the Uganda and Kenya Railways in coming months will remain to be seen, but the new team has given hope for RVR to stay “on the job,” while they re-organize the company, the finances and give the staff, shareholders and the two governments a new vision.