Demolitions in Nairobi Leave 3 Dead, 181,000 Displaced Amid Floods

Kenya's government demolished illegal structures near rivers, including the Mathare River, leading to 3 deaths, 181,000 evacuees, and widespread suffering amidst devastating floods. The demolitions, intended to prevent flood-related deaths, have been criticized for being chaotic and inhumane.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Demolitions in Nairobi Leave 3 Dead, 181,000 Displaced Amid Floods

Demolitions in Nairobi Leave 3 Dead, 181,000 Displaced Amid Floods

The Kenyan government's demolition of illegal structures near rivers in Nairobi, including the Mathare River, has led to at least 3 deaths, 181,000 evacuees, and widespread suffering amidst devastating floods. The demolitions, ordered to prevent future flood-related deaths by removing buildings within 30 meters of riverbanks, have instead exacerbated the crisis.

Why this matters: The handling of this crisis raises concerns about the Kenyan government's ability to protect its citizens, particularly the poor, during natural disasters. The incident also highlights the need for more effective urban planning and disaster preparedness measures to mitigate the impact of floods and other disasters.

One tragic victim was 17-year-old Ian Otieno, who was crushed to death when an excavator brought down a wall of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa church while he was inside helping save property. Rights groups, family members of the deceased, and residents have accused the government of carrying out the demolitions in a chaotic and inhumane way.

Winnie Makinda, 35, who lost her son in the demolitions, lamented, "My son's body is lying in the mortuary without preservation because I have not paid. I cannot even afford transportation to the morgue." Millicent Otondo, 48, who lost her home and business, said, "I am really bitter because police stood by as people looted my belongings."

Endured sleepless nights, Rights activist Boniface Mwangi stated, "This is hypocrisy and insensitivity of the highest order... The government knew the floods were coming and even set aside 10 billion [76 million] to prepare a nationwide response. What happened to those funds?" He added, "Demolishing people's homes in the name of affordable housing is a sign that we have a tone-deaf government. People living in shanties can't afford to pay for houses costing millions. Their entire life's wages can't buy any of the houses the government is building."

The floods and mudslides in Kenya, fueled by unusually heavy rainfall during the March to June rainy season, have killed at least 267 people and impacted more than 380,000, according to government statistics. Those living close to rivers like the Mathare River in Nairobi have been the hardest hit. President William Ruto has pledged 75 in aid to those affected, but many feel betrayed and abandoned, having not received the promised assistance.

The government has defended itself against opposition accusations of being ill-prepared for the floods' impact, despite early warnings from the meteorological department in October. However, the chaotic demolitions, loss of life, and immense suffering of those displaced raise serious questions about the government's handling of the crisis and its ability to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

Key Takeaways

  • Kenyan gov't demolitions near rivers cause 3 deaths, 181,000 evacuees, and widespread suffering.
  • Demolitions aimed to prevent flood deaths, but instead exacerbated the crisis.
  • Poor handling of crisis raises concerns about gov't's ability to protect citizens during disasters.
  • Floods and mudslides in Kenya kill 267, impact 380,000, with those near rivers hardest hit.
  • Gov't faces criticism for being ill-prepared, despite early warnings, and failing to provide promised aid.