Tribute To My Flamboyant Friends

Out in Kisumu, there was an avenue of flamboyant trees that lined the road that runs passes alongside the Hindu crematorium, the Muslim cemetery and a golf course on your way to the Kisumu airport. The mature umbrella shaped, bright flowering trees were a distinct feature of Kisumu as coconuts are to Mombasa.  I learnt they have been there since the 50s. I could not find the actual record of when they were planted but anyone who has traveled on that road to Busia will remember them as a distinct feature of the landscape. Those trees held memories.

Now they are all gone, chopped down to make way for a sparkling brand new dual carriageway. Those trees have served with such distinction. At the very least, the road contractors should have invited us to a funeral and put out a notice in the obituary section reading, “We regret to inform all concerned Kenyans who may remember the flamboyants, that they had to go”.

It is the heavy price of development. We need bigger better roads to move a growing population and environment will be destroyed for a good cause. I mourn those trees but I mourn Wangari Maathai more. In her time, the trees would not have gone down without a fight. She wouldn’t have bought the development script that easily. As she once said “There’s a general culture in this country to cut all the trees. It makes me so angry because everyone is cutting and no one is planting”. It is obvious that more of our green friends are lined up for summary execution.  The country is on the move and we can always plant ornamental trees back. It is all factored in the landscaping budget. As the rest of the world strives to green their urban spaces, Kenyans seem to have fallen in love with concrete and glass.

We need to promote development that does not destroy our environment –Wangari Maathai. Rest In Peace


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Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. Emma sent me here and I am starting to go through your website. Splendid job so far. Do you have an rss feed? I want to add it to my feeds.

    @OP Check link subscribe- top left

  2. Nice read…I believe its possible to incorporate the green with the concrete and glass…

    • Thanks Felix, there is an attitude in this country of thinking of trees as an after thought and viewing them as obstacles to ‘development’. When they talk of greening a place, they mean adding flower beds and manicured lawns. The value is only in the aesthetic and the important relationship balance between nature and our survival is dismissed.

  3. I couldnt agree with you more..hedges of flowers and manicured lawns cannot end the environmental crisis we are bound to encounter…

  4. Bonnieskwatta

    John Muir, the great Scottish born American naturalist summarized by thoughts in relation to this brilliant and nostalgic article.

    “God had cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But He cannot save them from fools.” Amen.

    • Apudo Apudo

      Ouch !They have graced the gateway to my ancestral home for two decades now. Funny thing is that now is when I reckon that they were a beautiful sight, and in the evenings they would complement the orange hue of the sun that seemed to float on the waters of the mighty lake…sigh

  5. ana odam

    Woye! the flame trees of Ksm have gone too? Tis odd because with all the fancy excavating machines/ equipment the contractors could have simply moved them and replanted them again. So much for the legacy of Wangari indeed.

  6. Same happened on Thika road just as you get to blue post. Gone. Without a ceremony. No sisal skirts were given a chance to swing in honour of the the silent giants that sequestered carbon for centuries. But we will fuss over clogged drains after substituting soils for concrete. Oh Wangari must be turning in her grave.

  7. When I read about this, the trees along the highway in Nakuru jumped into my mind.

    • The old Nakuru highway had it is green glory. Fortunately, it is a lot greener than what than what progress has brought to Kisumu.

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