Kenya’s Government Demolishes Homes in Flood-Prone Areas, Offers Families $75 to Relocate

(NAIROBI, Kenya) — Kenya’s government has begun demolishing homes built in flood-prone areas and promising relocated families the equivalent of $75 after a deadline passed for evacuation amid heavy rains.

In the capital, Nairobi, a bulldozer tore through iron-sheet walls as people watched in despair. Security forces with guns and batons stood guard and fired tear gas at some residents. Last week, the government told thousands of people living near rivers, dams and other flood-prone areas to vacate as heavy rains that have left 238 people dead in recent weeks continue to pound.

Most of those whose houses are demolished say they do not know where to go, even though the government claims they were notified about options. Human Rights Watch has criticized the demolitions.

“Now what are we going to do? We love our president, and that is why we supported him. He should come to our aid,” Jekenke Jegeke told The Associated Press.

President William Ruto, who visited the vast Mathare informal settlement along the Nairobi River on Monday, said those whose houses had been demolished would be given 10,000 Kenyan shillings ($75) to help them resettle elsewhere.

Three people, including two children, have died in Mathare after being run over by bulldozers in the demolitions — one before the president’s visit and two after it — according to civil society groups.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga last week warned the government against demolishing more houses without a resettlement plan in place.

The number of those affected by the flooding in Kenya has risen to 235,000, with most of them living in camps.

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki on Tuesday reiterated an evacuation order to 200 families living in the Kijabe area an hours’s drive from Nairobi, where about 60 people were killed and houses were swept away when water broke through a blocked railway tunnel last week.

That disaster prompted the government’s evacuation order. It is not clear how many homes across Kenya have been demolished since then.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Cabinet has said that water levels in the country’s two major hydroelectric dams – Masinga and Kiambere – have risen to “historic levels,” with people living downstream on the Tana River told to leave.