The director of the Meteorological Department, David Gikungu, says he does not know who gave President William Ruto false information that the department had scaled down its El Nino phenomenon alert.
Ruto on October 22 said the department had cut back its El Nino alert to short rains, telling a church service in Nairobi’s Dagoretti area, “You see the department has now said there will be no El Nino, we will only have significant rains, which is even better for us to get to our farms and produce more.”
He even linked the rainfall Kenya is receiving to the prayers he conducted at the Nyayo National Stadium in February, saying they had paid off.
His announcement contradicted earlier warnings by the department going back to May, where the weatherman had been warning that El Nino was expected in Kenya between October and December, with a possibility of extending to January 2024.
Now, Gikungu says Ruto’s announcement was not a result of the failure of their forecasts. In an interview with Citizen TV on Sunday night, the Met boss was asked what was behind the miscommunication.
“I hope that one day I will find out the truth,” he responded, “The science was not wrong. The statements we have been giving, what you would call official communication, have not suggested anything that would withdraw the El Nino phenomenon.”
Three weeks after Ruto’s announcement, on November 10, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua made the Met Department boss apologise over the government’s miscommunication on the matter after summoning him to address the current state of rains in the country.
Gikungu says his apology was to set the record straight on the purported changes to the forecast, and he has yet to know who gave the president such information.
“I am yet to know the source of that information, but as the head of the department, I needed to state that the forecast has not changed. I needed to state that I am sorry about that miscommunication because as far as I am and the science is concerned… we are all in an El Nino season,” he said on Sunday.
Asked whether he is concerned about the credibility of the Met Department moving forward, the director said, “I am. Given my position, I have to be concerned and that is why I issued an apology.”
At the same time, the Met Department boss told residents of Kitui County, the North Eastern region and the eastern highlands of the Rift Valley to be extra vigilant as rainfall is expected to increase even further this coming week.
He further warned that Nairobi by proximity to the eastern highlands of the Rift Valley, may receive a share of the enhanced rainfall this week.
According to Gikungu, the rains are likely to last up to the end of January 2024.
The government says the El Nino rains are now affecting 33 counties, up from the initial 19.
Latest figures from the Kenya Red Cross put the death toll from the rains at 61, with 235 people reported injured and a further eight listed as missing.
The humanitarian organisation says since the rains started in October, 80,518 households have been affected, with nearly half of this displaced.