Residents of Runda forced to use canoes as water submerges homes

Nairobi's most effluent estate Runda houses affected by floods as this resident rows a boat to enter her house on May 9, 2024. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Runda estate, a Nairobi suburb and elite neighbourhood for many years has been the face of wealth and opulence.

The estate is home to diplomats, ambassadors, politicians, top government officials, and the city’s affluent who spent a fortune to afford a home in the serene environment.

A cool ambience of manicured lawns, well-structured apartments, tree-lined streets, and quiet scenic roads ushers you into this estate that the rich have called home for years.

This has been the condition of Runda since it was developed in 1972 to meet demand after the United Nations Environment Programme Headquarters was built in Gigiri in the early 1970s.

However, for the last three weeks, residents have not had peace as some of them have been displaced out of their luxurious homes by floods.

The heavy rains that pounded several parts of the country leading to death and destruction of property, also wreaked havoc in Runda.

Although there has not been rainfall in the city for the past one week, some homes are still marooned in water, with residents cut off from accessing them.

And this is now the new reality facing the home owners in the affluent neighbourhood. Flood waters have flung open steel gates, knocked down concrete walls and flooded both the inside and outside of homes.

To gain access into their homes, some residents have bee forced to use canoes. 

According to residents who have lived in Runda for more than two decades, flooding has never happened before.

“It is something we have never seen, we have lived here for over 20 years and it has always rained but we have never seen something like this,” said one of the affected residents.

“We think there’s somebody filling up the dam from the other side and it is bringing in a lot of inconvenience to us because where the water is supposed to silt into is filled up.”

Another resident pointed to a development happening in the dam which seems to be throwing water to the houses in front of it, causing stagnation.

“The rain water is supposed to drain into a pan right behind. Every time there has been heavy rain the water levels go up. I have appealed to the Runda water association, they say something is going to be done and once the water goes down they forget it,” he said.

“They say that the pan which is supposed to drain the water in, is now a private property and they cannot do anything about it. I have seen efforts to try to fill up the pan with soil. Now, during this heavy rain the storm water has not had any place to go and has flooded all the houses around,” he added.

The situation is dire along Benin Drive and Eliud Mathu Valley, where residents displaced out of their homes for the last three weeks are going through emotional and financial losses due to damage of properties including furniture, appliances and personal belongings.

With schools reopening next week, parents are confused on what to do with their day school going children who are supposed to resume learning.

Of more concern, however, is the government’s response to the situation. They wonder why the government agencies responsible are not concerned with their plight.

Residents say they feel neglected and abandoned by the very government supposed to equally respond to concerns from Kenyans no matter their status in the society.

When the floods caused havoc in Mathare and other informal settlements in Nairobi, the government was swift in its response.

President William Ruto personally visited and empathised with the situation, promising government support to the victims of flooding.

“The government should not just focus on Mathare, Korogocho and Kibera, they should also focus on Runda. Most of these people are retirees and not in active employment, they should be helped,” said Fiu Nifiu, the Member of County Assembly for Karura Muthaiga ward.

Nifiu attributed the flooding in Runda to the backfilling of a water pan in the area.

“The challenge we are facing today is that we have a private developer who has over 11 acres of land behind these houses. Someone illegally backfilled a water pan and that is why most parts of Runda are flooding today. These are people who have lost livelihoods, and houses and have suffered, they are people in distress,” said Nifiu.

Dr Rael Lubasi, a resident of Runda, expressed concern over the development.

“We are wondering after so many years of not receiving any floods, it happened. It must be because someone has blocked the waterways. But we have a development committee under Runda Association that is supposed to be checking this kind of development,” said Lubasi.

He added: “What is it that they have been doing because it does not make sense that this flooding is actually taking place. We are convinced that something is wrong. There is probably someone, somewhere, who has not done something right and that is why people are paying the price for it.”

The residents are now appealing to the authorities to swing into action and help resolve the problem.