Friday, May 10 Declared Public Holiday-Ruto

The day will be set aside to honour those killed by floods and to start tree planting programme for climate change mitigation.

Friday, May 10 Declared Public Holiday-Ruto
President William Ruto speaking during the official opening of Bunge Tower in Nairobi on April 25, 2024. /AARON CHERUIYOT

President William Ruto has declared Friday, May 10 a public holiday.

He revealed on Wednesday, May 8 that the day will be set aside to honour those killed by floods and to start a tree-planting programme for climate change mitigation.

Earlier, Government Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura affirmed that the government would set aside Friday, May 10, as a National Tree Growing Day.

"We shall be having a National Tree Growing Day on Friday 10th May 2024. A gazette notice shall be issued to this effect. Hon Soipan Tuya, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Forestry & Climate Change shall hold a press conference today to give further directions," his statement on social media read in part. 

President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto planting a tree at the Groove of Nations at Jerusalem Forest on May 9, 2023. /PCS

This is however not the first time Kenya set aside a public holiday to grow trees, the last coming on November 13, 2023. On November 6, Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Kithure Kindiki gazetted the day as a public holiday to allow Kenyans to engage in tree-growing exercises across the country.

Trees play a crucial part in preventing flooding as they help keep soil in place, and their roots soak up water. (This is called reducing erosion and anchoring topsoil.)

Even trees’ leaves help prevent flooding. When raindrops bounce off them, the water doesn’t hit the ground as hard, thus when a forest suffers from deforestation, the risk of flooding increases.

Clear-cutting trees has another side effect. Since the soil isn’t anchored in place by tree roots, it gets carried downstream by heavy rainfall, with the dirt and mud washing into rivers and streams, which means riverbeds get clogged and can carry less water, worsening the flooding situation.

Meanwhile, current government statistics indicate that over 238 people have lost their lives to the countrywide flooding menace that began as far back as March.

Mwaura's flooding situation awareness update as of Tuesday revealed that 75 people are still missing with 223,000 impacted.

174 individuals are nursing critical injuries while 47,000 households were displaced, with the capital city, Nairobi, bearing the greatest brunt of the affected individuals at 164,000 followed by the Nyanza region (40,000), and the Eastern region (5,957).

"The government has deployed varied mechanisms to handle the disaster and to manage the ongoing evacuations. The KDF and NYS have been deployed to assist in the search and rescue operations while the National Government Administrative Officers (NGAO) have been mobilized to assist residents to move to safer areas,” stated Mwaura.

“We have about 30 designated evacuation centres; we have churches and schools on raised grounds. Please don’t wait until the water comes because you will not manage it. Disaster management is a joint responsibility."

To curb the casualties, President Ruto directed that all Kenyans living in fragile ecosystems that include riparian lands to vacate immediately.

On the bright side, he announced that 40,000 households who were evacuated for their own safety due to the ongoing floods in the country will receive a Ksh10,000 stipend each from the National Government.

A man carrying goods through floods in Kenya. /UK IN KENYA.X