NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 27 – A report by the ad-hoc Senate Committee investigating the Solai Dam tragedy has dismissed claims that the May 9 tragedy which claimed 48 lives was caused by heavy rains.
In the report tabled in the Senate Thursday afternoon, the Mutula Kilonzo Jnr-led team said its 30-day investigations attributed the collapse of the 200,000 cubic metre dam to deliberate criminal acts and omissions on the part of the owners and criminal neglect of duty and concealment by officers of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Water Resources Authority (WRA).
“The people did not die accidentally or through an act of God. The risks taken in constructing a dam of that magnitude were obvious,” the committee noted.
The team noted that the Kenya Metrological Department which had issued advisories in good time on excessive rainfall indicates that the rain on the day of collapse was within the normal range in that region hence not the cause of the collapse of the dam.
“To suggest that boulders and logs caused the breakage of the dam is at best delinquent and disingenuous,” the team remarked.
The Senate Committee further indicted safety regulatory agencies under the Environment and Water dockets for failing in their monitoring and regulation duties after it emerged during the testimony by Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui that the dam was illegal, because it had been licensed to operate as a weir.
“The owner did not apply and were never granted a permit for a dam on Watkins stream. The owner of Milmet dam knowingly and unlawfully constructed Milmet dam by blocking Watkins stream since 2004 on the basis of a permit for a weir contrary to the provisions of the Water Act with the full knowledge of Water Resource Authority and the Ministry of Water and Sanitation officials; This is criminal and must be treated and punished as such,” reads the committee report.
Chelugui presented satellite images dated 2004 to demonstrate that the dam owner had completely blocked the natural course way of Watkins Stream denying the residents downstream the use of the water resources.
“The satellite images showed that there were ongoing works on Milmet Dam between 2014 to 2017, during the period the owner(s) of the dam applied in 2005 and 2009 for permits of a weir of 2.5 m high, until they knew they were constructing a dam. If this is not deliberate, nothing will ever be.”
“It is dumbfounding that someone thought they could impound (in a dam) all the rain in Solai. There is no vocabulary for this sort of greed,” the committee observed in its findings.
The nine-member committee has also called on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to fast-track investigations towards prosecuting the Nakuru County Commissioner, his deputy and chief in Solai for abuse of office and obstruction of justice after it established that they forced victims to sign indemnity forms in exchange for cash payouts.
This comes even as Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi announced the establishment of a probe on ministry officials who allegedly received Sh35m to pay Solai dam victims and promised to give the Senate team a report in 30 days.
Matiangi on Monday told the team that he was not aware State officers were colluding with dam owners to talk victims out of compensation claims.
When dam owner Perry Mansukh appeared before the committee he admitted to giving Sh35 million to a committee comprising National Government officials in the Nakuru County as a token to help the affected families back on their feet.
Families were reportedly given from Sh100,000 to Sh1 million.
But the Senators say the money was meant to influence the survivors so they do not pursue further damages.
“Perry Mansukh Kansagara, the Managing Director of Kensalt Limited and Patel Coffee Estates Limited, during his appearance before the committee made vague statements, refused to disclose information, alleged to have no recollection of pertinent information and made false statements about the construction, licensing and operation of Milmet dam in a bid to mislead the committee. We have no hesitation in finding him dishonest,” the committee said in the report.
If the report is adopted by the Senate, then the Solai farm owners will be compelled to take restorative action of the Solai in line with a comprehensive environmental audit and assess the quantum of compensation payable to the families of the deceased, injured and for loss of livelihoods.
This is after the Senate team recommended that an alternative parcel of land be issued to the affected Solai residents as the restoration of their lands is being carried out.