Raging floods destroy costly infrastructure in East Africa

Saturday May 19 2018

A truck headed to Lodwar in northern Kenya is swept away by floods. Heavy rains across East Africa have destroyed roads and bridges. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA | NMG

By Johnson Kanamugire

East African governments will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets to repair infrastructure damaged by the heavy rains that have gone on for close to three months now, with a trail of destruction across the region.

The rains have caused massive flooding, triggered landslides and fault lines that have damaged or cut off key roads, leading to heavy losses that have left huge holes in the budgets.

Until Friday when the Kigali-Gatuna highway was reopened, transport officials from Uganda and Rwanda had been trying to minimise the impact on trade between the two countries and their economies. At least 200 trucks use the road every day.

The highway, a major transport corridor used mostly to facilitate landlocked Rwanda and Burundi trade with the rest of the region — Uganda, Kenya and parts of DR Congo — was cut off last week following heavy rains, forcing authorities to re-route all heavy trucks to Kagitumba and Cyanika highways which lie about 186km northeast and 124km northwest of Kigali respectively.

The damage of the key link road left Rwanda looking for additional funds to meet the repair costs and restore normalcy on the highway, alongside 25 other national roads and more than 40 district roads, bridges and power lines that have already been destroyed by floods and landslides in the country.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure Claver Gatete estimated the total cost of fixing the damages at $28 million, way above the $4.6 million that the government had earlier estimated. Some $10.3 million will go towards repairing national roads, $15 million for feeder roads and bridges while the rest will go into disaster relief funding.


Although Mr Gatete did not specify how the government intended to get the money, Prime Minister Eduard Ngirente had earlier indicated that priority would be given to fixing national roads as well as critical district road and bridges such as those connecting to health facilities.

“We are mobilising the funds; but the repair activities on these infrastructures do not stop. There are mandatory activities that have to be done so that the next rain season doesn’t find us unprepared,” said Mr Ngirente.


In Kenya, the government has set aside about $187 million for road repairs. Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the ministry had deployed engineers to assess all roads and make recommendations on how they will be rehabilitated, with repairs set to start in areas where rains have subsided.

A huge chunk of the funds — $132 million — has been allocated to repairing rural roads while $33 million will go to rehabilitating urban roads which the ministry said will be repaired despite the ongoing rains.

According to infrastructure Principal Secretary Julius Korir, repairs on 148 roads in the capital Nairobi began this week, at a cost of $1.4 million.

Several county governments have also poured millions of dollars into repairing the transport infrastructure with Makueni County — one of the most affected — saying that it would need up to $20 million for road repairs.

Key roads have been cut off in at least nine of Kenya’s 47 counties — Garissa, Isiolo, Kisumu, Mandera, Marsabit, Nakuru, Tana River, Turkana and Wajir according to government reports.


The situation is no different in Uganda where the government says tens of key roads and bridge infrastructure have been destroyed by the heavy rains.

According to the Uganda Road Fund executive director Michael Odongo, the Finance ministry has increased the road maintenance budget by 49.14 per cent to $167 million for the financial year 2018 /2019 to cater for road safety and “removal of bottlenecks caused by floods on local government roads.”

Ministry of Works spokesperson Susan Kataike told the Daily Monitor that the ministry had sent out engineers across the country to assess the extent of destruction and that the teams have one month to submit a report that will inform subsequent decisions.


A number of roads have also been destroyed in Tanzania where the Tanzania Meteorological Agency issued an alert of heavy rains, mainly in the coastal regions early this week.

The EastAfrican could not obtain the correct statistics on the extent of infrastructure damages by floods in Burundi and Tanzania, but rainfall totals are around 150 per cent of average, according to FEWS NET.

A 2017 report by Nature Climate Change says floods cost Tanzania an estimated $2 billion in damages every year.

With infrastructure worth billions destroyed by floods every year in the region, concerns are arising around the quality of some of the affected infrastructures.

But Rwanda’s State Minister for transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye who visited the damaged Kigali-Gatuna road last week on Tuesday said that the damages in Rwanda could be due to abnormal rainfall levels received in the country this year.

“We cannot put the failure on the standards, and that applies to other affected roads as well. We need to consider the fact that the rains we’ve been having from December are abnormal,” Mr Uwihanganye said.