, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – Debate on the report by the ad-hoc Senate Committee on the May 9 Solai Dam tragedy finally kicked off after Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki ruled that it will not prejudice the ongoing prosecutions.
Kindiki was forced to halt commencement of the debate on Wednesday after Baringo Senator Gideon Moi claimed that it would be sub-judice.
But in his ruling, the Deputy Speaker said debate must go on because the matter is of public interest and it touches on the right to life which he said is the most sacrosanct human right.
“The Select Committee was established not only to investigate the circumstances leading to the Solai tragedy but also to propose the compensation modalities among other matters. The criminal cases instituted by the DPP relate to criminal culpability which has nothing to do with the mandate of the Solai Dam Tragedy Select Committee,” Kindiki said in his ruling.
Committee Chairman Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr emphasised that the Solai Dam owners must be made to comprehensively compensate the families of the 48 people who perished.
“We have determined that the Solai Dam tragedy was not an act of God, but an act of man, of commission, omission, and negligence. It was a criminal one.”
“The people of Solai don’t sleep in their homes at night… the noise the dam made was like a bomb. When I say this is not a matter to joke about, I was prepared myself to lose my life because of this. I was not going to be intimidated to cover the truth.”
“Mr Perry Mansukh must pay dearly for two things; one for diverting water, for his own personal and commercial use. The people of Solai must be compensated by Mr Perry Mansukh through giving them new land for them to be resettled and he must determine one by one the people who have been affected and award each one of them in persona that means that you cannot guess, the 48 who died and the multiplier effect and the 246 who lost their livelihood and the multiplier effect,” Mutula Jnr stated.
He also dismissed attempts by a legislator from Nakuru County of trying to politicize the report.
“This afternoon, an MP from Nakuru who is also in cahoots with this people has made a very interesting remark; that this committee was fighting for Susan Kihika (Nakuru Senator) to become Governor in 2022. How fickle can a man be, shame on him. What has got anything to do with being a governor? None of us was motivated by anything other than the truth. We are not interested in their petty wars, petty politics,” he stated.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and Nominated Senator Beth Mugo called on the National Government to take action against its officers from the County Commissioner to those in the Water Resource Authority (WRA) and Ministry of Water whose actions were contrary to the Water Act.
“When nothing happens and we go on with our lives tomorrow same thing will happen. I must say NEMA and WRA failed to make sure those dams and other areas that are of danger to people are watched and are inspected. They must now get down to business and ensure those that are not licensed are either forced close or be emptied or the construction is checked to ensure we don’t have this tragedy again,” Mugo said.
“The laxity by those government officials must be questioned. The pain of government officials going round handing out Patel’s money… action must be taken. The fact that the CS, came here – who has been known to be diligent and conscientious – my good friend, Mr Matiangi, and said he was not aware that his officials were dishing out money, Madam Speaker, leaves a lot to be desired,” Senator Sakaja added.
“The owner of the dam contravened Regulation 67(2) of the Water Resource Management Rules by failing to take adequate measures to protect persons, infrastructure and environment downstream that was likely to be affected in the event of any discharge from the dam, whether caused by dam failure or intended releases from the dam,” read the report.
Senate Justice, Human Right and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samson Cherarkey (Nandi) expressed shock at the casual manner that the authorities had handled the tragedy.
“Who is Mr Patel? Is he god or a demigod that when he passes he provokes fear in the hearts of government officials.”
“To the DPP Noordin Haji we want to know whether he was mincing his words when he was interviewed by some of the media and he said why go for small fish and big fish when you can go whales. Well let’s see the whaling now. This criminal liability must punish so painfully, so harshly and within the law.”
The Senator supported the committee’s recommendation to have Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui investigated for attempting to mislead the Committee.
This is after the Committee recommended for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate the authenticity of the documents Chelugui submitted to support the claims that the dam had been registered.
“People have died, we have 52 orphans, that is 52 lives that have been disoriented, lack of parental care; there future is uncertain and bleak and someone is buttering a serious issue like this, as though he was applying margarine on bread like nothing is happening. Matiangi the ball is in your court, you have been known to be a rabble-rouser, you have been known to be effective and lethal can you deal with your officials who were complicit in this matter,” said the Nandi Senator.