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Ruto declares Friday May 10 public holiday

The government on Wednesday declared Friday, May 10, a public holiday to commemorate National Tree Planting Day and in memory of Kenyans who died in the nationwide floods.

Government spokesman Isaac Mwaura said on his X account that a gazette notice would 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,” Mr Mwaura said.

Speaking at State House in Nairobi on Wednesday, President William Ruto said the day had been set aside and would mark the start of a massive tree planting programme to mitigate climate change.

The Head of State also said the day would also be a day to remember the lives affected by the floods.

“We have set aside this day as part of our efforts to remember those we lost in the floods and it will be marked with a massive tree planting exercise aimed at mitigating climate change,” the President said.

He urged all Kenyans to unite and join the government in “planting at least 2 million trees on Friday and work towards improving our environment”.

As of Tuesday, the death toll from the ongoing floods had risen to 238, with 75 people still missing, according to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.

In November last year, the government surprised Kenyans by declaring a new national tree planting day as part of the government’s goal to plant 15 billion trees in 10 years.

The first National Tree Planting Day took place on 13 November, when Kenyans were encouraged to plant seedlings – provided free by the government through public nurseries – in designated public areas.

Members of the public were also encouraged to purchase at least two seedlings to plant on their own land. The aim of the first National Tree Planting Day was to plant 100 million trees, although official figures have not yet been released.

The initiative aims to help tackle the climate crisis and deforestation.

President Ruto has made the National Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Programme a priority since taking office in September 2022.

His plans were praised by King Charles III, who was in Kenya in November on his first visit to an African nation since ascending the throne last year.

“Having planted trees for most of my life, I thought I was doing pretty well, but your ambition to plant 15 billion trees makes me admire your efforts,” King Charles said at a state banquet.

While in the country, Charles planted a tree at State House in the capital, Nairobi, and at Karura Forest, associated with the late environmentalist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.