Nationwide Blackout Leaves 25 Million People in Kenya in the Dark

Managing Director and CEO (Ag.), Eng. Rosemary Oduor accompanied by Security Manager, Mj. (Rtd.) Geoffrey Kigen and General Manager (Ag.), Infrastructure Development, Eng. Raphael Ndolo inspecting a section of the collapsed high voltage transmission line earlier today.
Twitter/@KenyaPower

At least 25 million people in Kenya endured an hours-long, nationwide power outage Tuesday, allegedly the product of collapsed transmission towers.

Kenya Power, the agency responsible for electricity in the country, has at press time claimed to restore power to most of the country, but disgruntled citizens told local media the incident was neither surprising or new outside of its scale and that it was hindering the country’s ability to function. Kenya Power is a government company.

At the height of the outage on Tuesday, Voice of America reported, “at least 25 million people had lost power in Nairobi, western and central Kenya, the Rift Valley region and the Nyanza region.” Reports in local media indicated that power slowly returned to several neighborhoods of Nairobi and other population centers but Kenya Power had yet to fully repair the damage.

The electric company claimed that one downed power line deprived 25 million people of electricity.

“We have lost power supply due to collapsed towers on the Kiambere-Embakasi high voltage transmission power line at 10:45 a.m.,” a statement from the agency read. “We wish to apologize to our customers for the inconvenience caused.”

Kenya Power also posted photos of the damage online and their CEO allegedly on the scene to personally handle the repair.

By the time Kenya Power announced that the hours-long national blackout hand ended, large swathes of Nairobi experienced a second, allegedly unrelated, outage Tuesday.

“A 220k Suswa-Embakasi power transmission line that evacuates power to Athi River, Embakasi, and City Centre bulk substations has developed a sustained fault this evening,” another Kenya Power statement read on Tuesday. The second outage is affecting the Nairobi Central Business District, the country’s Standard newspaper reported, exacerbating troubles for local businessmen already outraged by the initial blackout.

Kenyans expressed frustration and concerns that Kenya Power’s officials were not sufficiently competent to keep the power grid running on Thursday. Some went as far as to blame “sabotage” for the repeated blackouts and many lamented that businesses hurting from a variety of circumstances, most prominently the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, had missed out on hours of work.

Kenya’s the Nation noted in its report on the national blackout Tuesday that downed or collapsed power lines appeared to be a chronic issue for Kenya Power.

“This comes just weeks after the utility firm was forced to ration power following collapse of towers supporting the high voltage power transmission line connecting Loiyangalani to the Suswa substation,” the Nation recalled, “which is the primary interconnection point of power generated from various sources across the country.”

“Most” of the country, according to the Standard, similarly experienced a national blackout in May 2020.

“Kenyans on Saturday morning woke up in darkness following a huge power outage experienced in most parts of the country. Most of them took to social media to express their fury at Kenya Power following the blackout experienced in the wee hours of Saturday morning,” the newspaper reported at the time. “Kenya Power, however, said the outage was due to loss of power supply on the national grid occasioned by system disturbance on the transmission network.”

The complaints at the time echoed those this week.

“We cannot work in the office due to Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus], we can also not work from home due to Kenya Power, this is sad. We are on our own said,” a Kenyan identified as Stephen Ogango lamented, according to the Standard.

A similar regional outage in Homa Bay County in April resulted in widespread complaints from locals, who lamented that not having power resulted in food rotting and loss of business.

“I have incurred huge losses after goods which were in my refrigerator spoilt,” Pauline Akoth, a trader, told the Standard.

“We are relying on the electricity to transact our business. The power outage has left me and other people with no income,” Alphonce Oyoo, a barber, told the newspaper.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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