President William Ruto seems to have eaten humble pie over his earlier stance that the country will not experience El Nino rains.
The heavy rains that Dr Ruto dismissed weeks ago are now causing havoc in various parts of the country and have led to the death of more than 70 people, according to the president’s own admission.
Ruto had last month said that the country will experience only heavier than normal rain patterns between October and December, this year, despite the Meteorological Department predicting El Nino.
The president will today chair a Cabinet meeting to deliberate on, among other issues, mitigation measures of the current heavy rains across the country with the Northern and Eastern regions most affected.
On Saturday, Ruto announced that Sh2.4 billion had been set aside to assist citizens affected by floods.
“We are concerned that 70 lives have been lost so far while 36,160 households have been displaced by the heavy rains. Roads have been destroyed especially in Northern Kenya, and trucks have been stuck with food, medicine and fuel, we are currently experiencing an emergency situation,” said Ruto.
The president has authorised the Kenya Defence Forces to airlift relief food, medicine and other basic needs to various parts of the country experiencing flooding, barely a few days after elected leaders from affected counties raised alarm over the worrying situation.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua also found himself on the receiving end last week when he claimed that the national government had allocated Sh10 billion to the 47 counties for flood mitigation. But the statement was refuted by the Council of Governors which said no such funds had been disbursed.
In a new twist, Gachagua called on counties to make use of their own funds to address the effects of El Nino.
“Governors are supposed to make use of emergency funds within their financial provisions and re-allocate money within their budget to meet the needs of their people,” said Gachagua.
Council of Governors (CoG) Chairperson Anne Waiguru said governors were concerned by public utterances about county governments receiving funds from the national government. She called on the two levels of government to work together.
“We have 13 counties that are owed Sh10.87 billion for September, 19 counties owed Sh19.64 billion for October while all counties are owed Sh32.76 billion for November,” said Waiguru.
Members of Parliament from Northern Kenya last week raised concerns over discrimination by the national government in addressing effects of El Niño rains which have resulted in several people losing their lives in the region.
They called on Gachagua to ensure that the region gets the resources it needs to cushion local residents during natural disasters, including flooding.
Wajir Senator Sheikh Abbass said it was worrying that the national government was yet to announce any interventions to assist citizens affected by El Nino rains in 19 counties badly affected.
Wajir North MP Ibrahim Abdi Saney asked the national government to account for the billions of shillings allocated for El Nino contingency measures, with residents of 19 counties facing a humanitarian crisis at the moment.