, SOLAI, Kenya, May 16 – President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto Wednesday joined survivors of the Solai dam tragedy in an interdenominational memorial service to honor the 48 victims who perished.
The memorial service, also attended by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Rachel Ruto, brought the country together in grief. The leaders committed themselves to prevent similar tragedies occasioned by man-made water reservoirs.
Thousands of survivors and mourners gathered at the Solai African Inland Church grounds where they recounted the horrendous events of the May 9 night when muddy torrents of water from a burst Patel dam swept through the sleepy Energy Village.
President Kenyatta reiterated the government’s pledge to fully support all victims of water related calamities across the country while other leaders and the church committed themselves to pro-actively protect the environment by supporting government campaign to plant millions of trees across the country.
President Kenyatta said the floods have caused havoc and destruction not only to the residents of Solai in Subukia, but also has affected residents of Tana River, Kilifi and Migori counties.
“As Kenyans we need to work hard and provide solutions to forestall such occurrences in future,” he said.
President Kenyatta committed that the government will rebuild all schools which have been destroyed by the floods.
He further said government would construct roads and provide water apart from other social amenities which have been destroyed by the current floods.
Last Saturday, President Kenyatta announced an extra Sh1 billion to be made available to the Kenya Red Cross to continue with its relief work, in addition to the Sh1.5 billion already set aside for the purpose of assisting flood victims across the country.
Besides the deaths, majority of them women and school children, the Solai tragedy left over 5,000 people displaced in addition to massive destruction occasioned by the burst Patel Dam waters.
The unprecedented calamity also left three churches (PCEA Solai, Full Gospel, and Good Shepherd), and two schools flattened and uprooted electric polls cutting power in the area and hampering initial evacuation.
Apart from darkness that plunged the area, evacuation was further hampered by the poor road whose condition was worsened by the artificial floods from the burst dam.
President Kenyatta commended the residents of Solai and Nakuru County Government leadership for their prompt response which helped save many lives during the Patel Dam tragedy.
“Your actions showed a true Kenyan spirit. Spirit of brotherhood, spirit of solidarity, we are indeed our brothers keeper,” he said.
Together with the clergy from various churches, the memorial service was attended by governors, senators and MPs from across the country where host Governor Lee Kinyanjui announced that all counties had agreed to donate Sh100,000 each to assist the Solai survivors.
The Council of Governors was represented by the CoG Chairman Josephat Nanok.
Nakuru leaders led by their governor paid a special tribute to the administrator of a local clinic, Mary Waruguru, who risked her life during the tragedy and single-handedly saved over 30 lives including a seven-month old baby strapped on the back of her mother who had drowned.
President Kenyatta also assured the residents of Solai and Subukia in general that his government would give them title deeds for their parcels of land.
“For over 40 years people have waited to get their title deeds. Even some have died while waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. I will return here soon to hand over to you those legal documents ensuring that you legally own your land,” said President Kenyatta.
He also called on the county governments to partner with the national government, to ensure all Kenyans have access to quality healthcare by registering themselves with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Deputy President William Ruto said Kenyans should always seek to provide solutions rather than apportion blame when tragedies occur.
“As Kenyans we should ask ourselves what measures do we need to take to avoid such tragedies,” asked the Deputy President.
“At such a moment we are likely to apportion blame, but what we should ask ourselves is what could each one of us has done,” he added.
He said the government is processing 1,300 title deeds for the area residents noting that as per the President’s directive the government will pay stamp duty of the said titles.