Twisted scraps of metal, large splinters of wood and misplaced mattresses are all that remain of what were once people’s homes in communities across East Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. 


Across the wider Nairobi County, hundreds of people have also seen their homes knocked down. The calamity has hit not only slums and poor neighbourhood, but also residential areas and affluent communities.  In addition, roads have been cut off, bridges collapsed and vehicles drowned together with passengers in one fell swoop.


The state had ordered – albeit too late – demolitions, asking survivors to leave their homes and move to higher ground in the wake of heavy rains and flooding, which had ravaged East Africa over numerous weeks.


Like British Colonies Ghana and Nigeria, slums make up majority of neighbourhoods in district business centres, with local government agencies that have the responsibility to tidy up during such emergencies looking on and complaining of lack of resources to tidy up.


People creating slums has never been a feature of Francophonie communities and business districts in Africa. With them, the law works; here, particularly among the Anglophones, all-knowing human rights activists will frustrate any processes to discourage migrant communities from slum engineering by demented grassroots democrats and their loony, empty communicator allies in the social and regular media.


Meanwhile, the Kenya government has admitted the demolitions are now necessary in order to prevent further deaths, after looking on while they bred up. It also belatedly pointed out that living within 40 metres of the banks of a river is illegal. Tell that to the animals encroaching along the banks of Lake Bosumtwi…


Authorities naturally gave people in earmarked areas 24 hours to evacuate – a deadline that expired last Friday evening. However, many residents told the media they were caught by surprise and that their homes were demolished before the cut-off point.


Those who witnessed the demolitions blamed the army, saying they were responsible. Well, the army, as usual, were yet to comment.


Results of blame game


But government spokesperson Isaac Mwaura said: “These are the same people who are dying. These are people who are being affected by these floods.


“Sometimes when the water subsides then people go back to their buildings. So as a government we just have to be very clear and very categorical.”


The government says it is illegal and dangerous to build so close to a river. It has relocated just under 27,600 people forced from their homes by the floods in newly built camps.

It added that some 210 people across the country had died as a result of the floods, with a further 90 missing, according to the latest official estimates. Just this week, more than 50 people were killed when a tide of water swept through villages near the capital, Nairobi.


Torrential rains are forecast to continue throughout the month and 178 dams and water reservoirs pose a high risk of overflowing, the authorities have warned.

What’s more, President William Ruto has warned the nation it could be about to experience its first ever cyclone, with cyclone Hidaya gaining momentum along the Tanzanian coast on Friday.


In a televised address, the Kenyan President ordered for schools to be shut indefinitely.

In neighbouring Tanzania, government spokesman Mobhare Matinyi told the BBC and other global networks that the authorities were on standby and prepared to evacuate people living in coastal areas at risk from the cyclone, which could hit the biggest city, Dar es Salaam.


Worse yet to come


Other places likely to be affected by the impact of the cyclone include Mtwara, Lindi, Tanga, and Zanzibar.


The country’s meteorological agency, TMA, has said that the cyclone was expected to cause heavy rains and strong winds. Some close to 200 people have already died from flooding in the country. However, the government has not suspended transport between Dar es Salaam and the islands of Zanzibar.


“We want all people doing maritime activities and transporters to take caution, and follow advice from the meteorology agency so as to reduce risks,” said Mr Matinyi, after nutty informal sector canoe owners and passengers as well as buses and commuters applying experience above common sense decided to dribble the raging floods and fell victim to the watery grave.


Local politics


Again, the story is quite like what we see and hear in Ghana.


“If the government demolishes our houses, at least give us a solution. Tell us where to go. We don’t know where to go,” one desperate informal economy worker exploded.

When she descended into the business district, she didn’t ask any lawyer or politician for advice, nor plan where she would be living in comfort, instead of squatting. Now government must take the blame because it promised solving all social problems.

Tarzan President

The President of Kenya, reeling under political pressure, has asked universities to close down, together with schools in affect communities – before the political fallout becomes grinding.

He has also asked griping local government chiefs to dig deep into their budgets to release funds outside the emergency budgets to deal with the situation.

Back home in Ghana

Under John Dramani Mahama, when we had the tragic floods and fires in the business district of Accra, I was in a meeting with market unions in the tomato trade in the Central Business District. I usually stayed on as advocate till well over 7 pm when all other market actors had left to discuss raging points with them.

Strangely, I decided to leave at 3pm in the middle of the meeting only to reach home at Agape, Ablekuma, to hear that Accra was under Noah’s floods and Lot’s fire. It turned out that about the same number of persons would be dead and several others missing.

Worse, the blame game would start and conversations that were abandoned reignited just to mute the political heat, while policy implementers go back to bed and their girl and boyfriends, leaving the Odaw River silted and the stream still unable to enter the sae at the James Town end.

More annoyingly, we would be hearing the politician quote horrendous figures for only desilting while the issues that cause siltation would be ignored and holistically dealt with in preventing the tragedy that visits British African colonies because democracy has come to mean license, instead of law and order.

Campaign promises

I have been monitoring the campaign promises of all three flagbearers – from the Butterfly and Elephant to the Akatamanso. None has convincingly cited flooding and the worsening sanitation issue that breeds flooding or a generated a sleek plan that addresses illegal mining – after the Agyapa Deal was shot down.

Again, none has added to the conversation on latching onto the marijuana economy to add to the wave of industrialisation we anticipate. 24-hour economy and we end at that, without factoring the logistics that would go into maintaining security on the Kintampo-Tamale stretch where it is becoming normal to hear commuters robbed with rampancy – most of them women.

Since the government gave the green light for private sector to move into the industrial marijuana sector, no report has come to Parliament and no media outfit has followed up on such a vibrant business and job-creating conversation. But that is Ghana. Some animals are waiting for others to invest in the sector before they use politics to elbow them out.

Relooking our local govt structures

As the floods continue to threaten, the President of Kenya and his appointed local government chiefs continue to tango over resources that can barely match the depth of tragedy that has hit Kenya. Indeed, the snag here is that ‘contingency’ and ‘emergency’ are two different issues. It is therefore for the appointee and Executive to define the differences and draw the lines in surmounting what will evidently be a tall order in terms of finding a solution – with dire political consequences for Kenya’s incumbent administration, together with his Tanzanian counterpart.

But, let us also not forget that a government that benefits from the tragedy, should the current administration be thrown out just because it failed to survive the burden of surmounting the tragedy, the succeeding administration would be facing the same test. That is why in critical times, the national interest is considered by serious politicians first, before the party and crony, moneybag, goon thinking.

That, of course, grants no excuse for the local government to look on clear issues of recklessness from migrants and local squatters are ignored. But that is also aside the fact that local government chiefs have an obligation to be innovative in revenue mobilisation, but also ruthless in fighting those who desecrate the environment and degrade natural resources.

These are basic ingredients in fighting flooding holistically, while ensuring that people don’t create structures that are outside planning spaces to the jeopardy of the larger community and state.


That our local governments are still managed like the typical state institutions that we have had since the colonialist left our shoes is still worry, particularly when we have them on markets among informal economy actors, without them innovating formalisation structures. Their presence, too, cannot be seen on farm gates where intrigue – rather than contract – dictate prices of foodstuffs and livestock, and on highways where bandits have a field day, despite our MMDCEs’ position on the REGSEC as chair of security. 

By Abena Bawuaah