Some African countries pray for rain, others wish it would just stop. As with everything in life, one man’s blessing is another man’s curse.
Recent rains brought such a curse upon our people. Twenty-nine of our Kenyan brothers and sisters, including four children, lost their lives in recent flooding. This is not a new phenomenon and happens all too frequently, with six others dying in September in flash floods that caught them unprepared at Hell's Gate National Park in the Rift Valley.
Nature does not differentiate between nationalities - the flood claimed the lives of five tourists.
Such tragedies occur and as sad as it is, they are nobody’s fault. While we cannot control Mother Nature, we can prepare accordingly and respond immediately when we are caught by surprise by its whims. In this regard, our government’s immediate and comprehensive response to recent floods was the best that could have been expected in the circumstances.
Certainly it was significantly better than we would have expected in the past. Spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and under the guidance of Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, vast efforts were made to ensure those affected by the floods had access to basic supplies such as clean water and food.
Located a significant distance from the capital, Mandera and Wajir counties are not the easiest to access, and the conditions present after the floods made bringing supplies to the affected citizens exceptionally challenging. With the central arteries reaching the counties – such as the Kutulo-Wajir as well as the Takaba-Mandera roads – inaccessible and with the main bridges washed away, trucks sent to deliver relief found themselves stuck. Ensuring that the supplies arrived required creative thinking.
In order to resolve this, Uhuru ordered airlifts, despite their high cost. He similarly made use of the military. Although usually meant to defend our nation from external threats, in this case our soldiers mobilised to help protect citizens from a very different enemy, mother-nature.
As the leader of our nation, Uhuru wanted to make sure ensure that no Kenyan was left without adequate food, water and medical supplies, and that all the available resources were allocated to assist them.
While providing immediate relief to those affected is an important first step, and one which the State has adequately dealt with, the impact of events such as these stretch beyond providing relief.
Many of those affected are farmers who lost their livestock due to the flooding. Others lost their family homes and livelihood.
What has proven instrumental in addressing the long-term well-being of these citizens of Kenya are the international relationships that the President has developed over the past few years.
These include international partners, such as the Red Cross, who have proven to be key players in assisting Kenyans in need. Without their immediate assistance, thousands run the risk of disease and starvation. Emergency scenarios like these leave no room for pride. A true leader knows when to accept help.
The biggest challenge will be rebuilding after the floods have subsided. Hundreds have been displaced, schools and health facilities destroyed and much of the local infrastructure is in shambles.
The disruption of everyday life has led to even the most basic of things not being possible, such as local children taking their national exams.
Uhuru is certainly up to this challenge and has in the past mobilised the government to ensure that citizens are able to return to their lives as soon as possible.
The process will be a long one, but the Kenyan people are a resilient people. There is reason to believe that under the leadership of Uhuru, they can be sure that everything that can be done will be done to restore them to their daily routine.
As the saying goes, earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.
The lessons learned from the recent flooding are extensive. The most important of these is the fact that while we are powerless in the face of mother-nature, with adequate resolve, forward planning and strong leadership, no challenge is too difficult for the Kenyan people to overcome.
Sammy Kwinga is a Nairobi-based political scientist. [email protected]