NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 14 – Two witness in the Solai dam case have revealed that negligence could have led to the tragedy that occurred in May 2018 and claimed 48 lives.
The prosecution’s first witness, a 56-year-old man who was a security officer at the Solai farm for 15 years, told a Nakuru court on Tuesday that reported two leakages on lower side of the dam to his supervisor.
The second witness, also a guard, corroborated the account he had noticed a crack from top to bottom of dam’s wall and that the walls were shaky. He guard who had worked at the farm for four years said he reported the same to his supervisor.
The witness accounts unfolded during a court session held at the expansive farm owned by Perry Manusukh under the stewardship of Senior Principal Magistrate Lucy Njora.
The hearing of a case against proprietors of the Solai farm resumed in Nakuru County after three-year delay triggered by failure of the prosecution to appear in court.
Manusukh and eight others were charged with 48 counts of manslaughter and failing to prepare an environmental impact assessment report.
Previously, the Naivasha court blamed the Public Prosecutor for the delayed hearing faulting the prosecutor office of seeking frequent adjournments.
Also charged in the case was the farm’s General Manager Vinoj Jaya Kumar and Nakuru County Water Director Johnson Kamau Njuguna.
Others were Water Resources Authority and National Environment Management Authority officers Luka Kipyegen, Winnie Muthoni, Jacinta Were, Tomkin Odo Odhiambo, Willie Omondi and Lynette Cheruiyot.
In February 2021, four suspects in the case lost their bid to halt their trial at the magistrate’s court after the Court of Appeal dismissed their application.
Justices William Ouko, Wanjiru Karanja and Martha Koome dismissed their application for stay, ruling that it failed to meet the threshold set in law.
The court noted that there were six other persons charged alongside the four before court who had not appealed.
It was the court’s view that if the criminal trial was stayed, the right of the other accused persons to a speedy trial would be compromised.
An investigation by Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) found the Solai dam management culpable of causing the deaths of 48 people after the dam burst its embankments amid heavy rains on May 9, 2018.
The report by the human right organization also cited negligence from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA).
“Blatant lack of compliance by Patel Coffee Limited and negligence by officials of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA). For its NEMA and WARMA officials who are responsible for overseeing environmental and water resource management,” read the report.
A separate investigation conducted by a Senate Committee Chaired by Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr found Perry Mansukh Kansagara, the owner of the Patel Dam, culpable for the tragedy, recommending that he be forced to compensate the affected families.
The Select Committee noted that the Solai dam management caused the tragedy by irregularly diverting river sources in Solai into his dams.
According to the committee, the redirection of the river sources into the private dam is what caused it to break its banks flooding Energy Village in Nakuru’s Solai and leaving in its path a trail of destruction and dozens of deaths .