Guards working for the strike-hit Chinese contractor building a railway in Kenya have shot and killed a local youth after a mob forced its way onto the site demanding jobs.
China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) expressed condolences to the family of the deceased but said the shooting on the morning of 6 January was an act of self-defence.
Local tensions on the Nairobi-Navaisha standard gauge railway (SGR) project are high after two workers were crushed to death by a collapsed culvert in December, and a strike that erupted last week over pay and conditions.
Giving its side of the story on the same day, CCCC claimed a crowd of "youthful local residents" surged on a local office-encampment and became violent, outnumbering armed guards.
"This morning around 200 job seekers approached SGR Suswa factory site camp demanding for employment," CCCC said in statement on the Facebook page of its subsidiary, China Road and Bridge Corporation.
"As the contractor was making the arrangements to engage the youthful local residents through the liaison department, the situation got violent resulting the job seekers forcing their way into the campsite threatening to cause harm on the inhabitants," the statement said.
"At some point, the job seekers having entered the campsite forcefully pelted stones at the security team (Administration Police officers) in trying to gain more entry. In the process, one of the AP officer’s was attacked and injured. The crowed still surged forward and the APs who were by now outnumbered and overwhelmed by the numbers tried to disperse the crowd in fear of their safety.
"Unfortunately, one of the locals was shot and died inside the camp, because the act of self-defense of the AP.
"We are now working with the local authorities on ground to ensure that this stalemate is brought to an end in an amicable manner."
CCC said: "We would like to express our deepest condolences to the family."
The project has been marred by violence before. In August 2016 the Kenyan government halted work on the line when locals angry about not getting jobs attacked Chinese workers.
The Nairobi-Navaisha SGR is part of Kenya’s grand plan for a railway stretching from its commercial and port hub of Mombasa all the way to its landlocked neighbours, through Nairobi. The Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi leg opened in May 2017.
The contract to build the leg running northeast from Nairobi was awarded to CCCC in March 2016.
Image: Workers at a new tunnel on the Nairobi-Navaisha standard gauge railway (SGR) project in Kenya, dated 17 December 2017 (CCCC via Facebook)