‘Where can we go?’ flood-stricken Kenyans plead as homes destroyedWed, 08 May 2024 15:27:46 GMT

“Where are we supposed to go?” implored Catherine Masai as she watched a bulldozer tear down shanty houses on the banks of a muddy river in a sprawling Nairobi slum.Weeks of rains and floods have caused a trail of destruction across Kenya and cost almost 260 lives, prompting the government to order the evacuation of everyone living in risk-prone areas.”Forcibly or voluntarily,” was the blunt phrase used by government spokesman Isaac Mwaura at the weekend.Almost 55,000 households have been displaced, according to the latest government figures, as the deluge swamped homes, roads and bridges in nearly every corner of the country.”They have demolished our houses without giving us an alternative place to go,” said 50-year-old Masai as the bulldozer moved through her neighbourhood of Mukuru on Wednesday.- ‘Wrong to kick us out’ -Crowds of people watched as the excavator smashed through the corrugated iron sheets, wooden poles and bricks that once provided shelter to the inhabitants of one of Nairobi’s largest slums.”All these people have been displaced, they should have relocated us before the demolitions,” Masai said, as people scavenged through the detritus of their homes on the banks of the swollen river.”They came abruptly with the bulldozers, affecting women and children, where are we supposed to go?”We have lived here for more than 30 years without being swept by floods,” Masai said angrily. “The government is wrong (about) kicking us out, we were very okay.”President William Ruto has insisted the government would relocate all Kenyans living in riparian areas “for their safety”.”We can protect them in a different place,” he said during a visit on Monday to Nairobi’s Mathare slum, where many homes were engulfed by the floodwaters.”There will be enough food for them, there will be blankets, there will be mattresses and we are going to look after their children.”Ruto announced that each displaced household would be given a sum of 10,000 Kenyan shillings (about $75) to tide them over until a more permanent solution was found.But in Mukuru, 20-year-old Sheila Mbone said she had been given no information about where she would be rehoused.”The government is demolishing our homes without telling us where we are being relocated. What are we meant to do as the victims?”