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Solai dam had been declared stable before it burst, killing 48 people

Mourners gather around a mass grave in which a section of Solai Dam tragedy victims were interred at Energy Estate, Nakuru, in 2018. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Solai Dam which burst its walls and killed 48 people in Nakuru in May 2018 had been declared stable after several inspections, a Naivasha court has heard.

The court heard that tests done by the Water Conservation Authority months before the tragedy had indicated that the dam did not pose any threat.

Naivasha Chief Magistrate Nathan Lutta heard on Friday that several government water conservation agencies issued clearance certificates and licenses to certify the dam.

This emerged during the hearing of a case where the owner of the dam and the expansive farm where it is located, Perry Manusukh, is charged with 48 counts of manslaughter over the May 9 incident in Solai, Nakuru.

The other eight suspects in the case are Vinoj Jaya Kumar, Johnson Njuguna, Luka Kipyegen, Winnie Muthoni, Jacinta Were, Tomkin Odo Odhiambo, Willie Omondi, and Lynette Cheruiyot.

The suspects have also been accused of failing to prepare an environmental impact assessment report before constructing the dam.

Chief Inspector Joseah Mariti, who was involved in the investigations, said he recorded and collected evidence from the victims and various State agencies soon after the incident.

The officer, in his testimony, said he managed to collect documents from the Water Resource Management Authority, National Environment Management Authority, and the conservation authority concerning the dam.

“According to documents from the Water Conservation Authority, stability tests done on the dam found it to be perfect before it burst,” he said.

He said all those who died were swept away by the gushing water either while in their houses or while in the nearby trading centre.

During the hearing, the court rejected a multi-agency report presented by the then Nakuru Regional Commissioner Chimwaga Mongo. The report on Solai Dam was compiled by various government agencies and experts seeking to find the cause of the incident.

Mongo told the court that soon after the tragedy, a multi-agency team which he chaired was formed with a view of looking at the cause of the tragedy.

He told the court that several sub-committees including security, water and environment were formed before submitting the final report.

“This was a disaster that left tens of people dead, families displaced and lives disrupted and we involved various government agencies in coming up with this report,” he said.

However Senior Counsel Pravin Bowry, who is representing the first two accused, faulted the report noting that it was compiled by experts who were not in court.

Bowry accused the prosecution of trying to introduce new evidence through the backdoor, noting that there was no document from the victims of the disaster.

The hearing will continue on January 24.