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Odinga finally breaks ranks over floods crisis

Ruto's opposition leader criticises the government's response to the crisis as heavy rainfall continues to pound the country

Catastrophic flooding has killed more than 200 people and destroyed thousands of homes in recent weeks, making it one of Kenya's worst natural disasters in living memory. Yet criticism of President William Ruto's handling of the crisis has been muted.

The scale of the floods, which follow weeks of heavy rain, has been compounded by long-standing government neglect of sewer and drainage systems (Dispatches 30/4/24, State House has a problem with Nairobi's political boss).

However, late last week opposition leader Raila Odinga finally attacked the Ruto government for demolishing housing in Nairobi's slums, accusing ministers of leaving people destitute. Odinga also accused Ruto of turning a blind eye to corruption, referring to the pending impeachment of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi over his alleged involvement in a fake fertiliser scandal.

This is the first time Odinga has broken ranks and publicly criticised the government on any front since it became clear in February that President Ruto would front Odinga's campaign for the chair of the African Union Commission (Dispatches 23/2/24, Raila Odinga's bid for AU chair wins consensus in Nairobi).

That has prompted concerns among some opposition Azimio la Umoja leaders that Odinga has effectively been co-opted by the Ruto government, making it hard to offer any real opposition to Ruto.

The floods crisis could well derail the Ruto government's economic plans for the coming months. Heavy rains are not expected to ease until late May and Cyclone Hidaya had reached Kenya as Africa Confidential went to press, meaning that the final death toll and scale of the damage to property and infrastructure is likely to be far higher.

The start of the new school term, due on 29 April, has also been postponed indefinitely.

Last week, ministers requested approval of 10 billion Kenyan shillings (US$70 million) in emergency funding, though the total bill will be far higher.

Other Azimio leaders have urged Ruto to declare the floods as a national disaster so that Kenya can receive relief funds from the international community.

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