, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 9 – A lot has happened since the May 10 Solai dam tragedy that claimed 48 lives.
This was after a privately owned 20 million litres capacity dam – famously known as Patel dam broke its banks, sweeping an entire village and leaving a trail of destruction whose impact will be felt for decades.
More than 50 children were left orphaned, 41 people sustained injuries while 223 families lost their homes and almost 5,000 people were displaced.
The environmental degradation caused by the raging waters is massive.
All the productive soil in a stretch of more than 10 kilometres has been swept away.
“The affected portions of land will never be productive again,” an affected resident, Grace Wangui told Capital FM News at the weekend.
Interaction with the survivors paints a picture of pain, hopelessness as many retire to fate and hope that “God will restore our dignity… God will give us justice.”
It is the same water, that they have been denied for decades. All the streams meant to supply water downstream are blocked within the expansive farm, whose water is used to irrigate a wide variety of crops grown there.
Inside the farm, a spot check reveals that there are about seven dams, whose source of water are the streams running from Aberdare ranges in Nyandarua County that are confined within the farm.
– Compensation Saga –
When the Senate ad-hoc committee on the Solai tragedy visited the survivors on July 6, shocking details of how administrators colluded with ‘brokers’ to deny those affected the rightful compensation emerged.
It was an emotional revelation as genuine survivors narrated how they were short-changed by a greedy lot with the help of local administrators.
Those on spot are the Assistant County Deputy Commissioner and chiefs who are accused of sneaking in names of individuals who were not affected by the tragedy.
“The list that was given to Patel (the owner of the farm) and Red Cross has names of people who were not affected. Some were miles away from this area,” Dorcas Wanjiku, a survivor told the Mutula Kilonzo Jnr-led committee at a charged public gathering.
Her sentiments were shared by tens of other survivors who say “brokers misled Patel.”
The owner of Patel farm, they say, released some money meant for the victims, some of which went to the deep pockets of masqueraders.
The committee was told of how business owners affected by the tragedy received Sh1 million while those who had their relatives killed were given a mere Sh100,000.
“Does this even make sense?” Senator Kilonzo wondered.
In a case where an entire homestead was affected, only one person has been listed for compensation.
“I had three houses and were all swept. My sons, who are all married were not spared either, how will compensating one person help?” Wanjiku queried.
Senator Kilonzo has indicated that the committee may recommend suspension of the implicated administrators.
“You have implicated yourselves and this will cost you your job,” the legislator warned. “We shall not stop until the truth is known and justice delivered.”
Currently, the Senator says, there are three lists “and we are not sure which is genuine.”
The affected villages are Energy, Nyandarua and Nyakinyua.
Engineers from the Ministry of Water have also revealed that all the seven dams on Patel farm had their licenses renewed despite authorities being denied access, in a case of outright impunity.
– Bail ruling –
Meanwhile, the courts will on Monday rule whether the two owners of the killer dam and four others should be released on bail or not.
They include dam owner Perry Mansukh Kasangara, the estate General Manager Vinoj Jaya Kumar, a Nakuru County Government official, Water Resources Authority Officials Winnie Muthoni, Tomkin Odhiambo and Jacinta Were who were charged with manslaughter last week.
The prosecution is opposed to them being freed on bond and instead want them placed under the Witness Protection Agency.