Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah
A sombre mood engulfed Solai in Nakuru county yesterday as an inter-denominational prayer service was held for the victims of last week’s Patel Dam tragedy in which 47 people died and more than 2,000 left homeless.
Accompanied by four Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking government officials, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto paid glowing tribute to the people of Solai village “for exemplifying Kenya’s indomitable spirit in the face of disaster”.
Uhuru said he was particularly touched by the unity and perseverance shown by the local community after the dam broke its walls unleashing terror to more than 450 households.
Although the speeches were few, short and carefully crafted, the mood at the Solai AIC Church grounds where the prayers were held was one of sadness and despair amidst hope and comfort.
“After these tents are removed and the cameras stop rolling these people will need help to get their lives back on track; they need rebuilding,” Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said.
He assured families whose kin are still missing that search and rescue operation was still going on. “We have not entirely closed the operation because there might still be people out there,” he added.
Uhuru and Ruto told locals that the government will shoulder the cost of rebuilding “I want to assure you that you don’t need to call harambees to build the schools that were destroyed… we will do it,” said Uhuru.
The President added that the government would fast-track issuance of title deeds in the area for inhabitants to enjoy full benefits from their land. “The government and the country as a whole are fully with you at these difficult moments. We pray to God that he may give you the strength to overcome this disaster,” he said.
He also challenged Kenyans to embrace tree planting and other environmental conservation means to mitigate against effects of global warming and climate change. “Even when we ask God to help us, we need to do something to stop such disasters from occurring in the future and one way of doing it is to plant trees,” he said.
Rev Julius Mwamba, who presented the day’s sermon, urged Kenyans to stop the blame game saying it is unnecessary and unhelpful. “Nobody expected such a thing to happen. Not the dam owner and not the residents otherwise they would have done something to stop it,” he said.
“The dam owner needs healing. The victims need healing and the country too needs healing,” he said.
Earlier, tears flowed freely as 47 bodies, the majority of them children below 10 years, were released to the families for burial.