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Kyanguli Secondary School parents awarded Sh41m after 15 years of waiting after fire tragedy

By Joe Ombuor | Mar 13th 2016 | 2 min read

Fifteen years is an inordinately long time for grieving parents of sons who perished at Kyanguli Secondary School fire tragedy.

The parents appreciate the Sh41 million awarded by Justice Joseph Sergon, although they are still mourning their sons’ death.

“Nothing can adequately pay for the lives of our children, but the money is welcome for the families of those who have died. We appreciate,” says the chairman of bereaved parents association Bernard Mutune.

Abbas Esmael of Kilukumi and Company Advocates who saw the case to its conclusion last month, says the 63 families will each receive Sh650,000.

He says they will counter appeal if the state appeals against the judgment. Justice Sergon gave the state up to March 17 to appeal.

Mr Esmael blames the Judiciary and the Attorney General’s Chambers for the delay of the case. “The case came before Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal in 2011 after crawling along before other judges for close to a decade, but the Attorney General’s Chambers never played ball as expected. They absented themselves from court whenever the case came up for hearing until Lady Justice Rawal was promoted to the post of Deputy Chief Justice, leaving the case in a limbo,” he says.

“Matters were not helped by the fact that 2013 was an election year during which few cases were heard and the Kyanguli case suffered yet another blow,” he regrets.

Mourners at the funeral of the pupils who died in the fire. The grieving parents of sons who perished at  the 2001 Kyanguli Secondary School fire tragedy have waited 15 years to receive government compensation. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Abandoned the case

Esmael commends Justice Sergon who took up the case in 2014 for working at a pretty fast pace to bring some form of respite to the bereaved families, many of whom had lost hope that the case would ever yield fruit.

Mr Mutune credits Chief Justice Willy Mutunga for the speed with which the case moved under his watch. “State Counsel from Attorney General’s Chambers who previously appeared to have abandoned the case started showing up only after the Chief Justice took over the reins of justice,” says Mr Mutune.

“Judiciary officers’ lethargy in the pre-Mutunga era prompted the frequent adjournment of cases, creating a backlog that was almost impossible to clear. Our case for instance was never reached whenever it was scheduled for hearing with the result that coming to court was but a waste of money and time,” he recalls.

He says the case was filed in 2002 when all the bereaved parents were alive, only to be concluded when six had already died.

“Compensation coincided with the death of Agnes Ndinda, a parent whose body is yet to be buried,” he says.

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