Police on Tuesday stopped a meeting convened by Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) for survivors of Solai dam tragedy that claimed over 40 lives two year ago.
KHRC Executive director George Kegoro said the meeting was to strategize on how to prepare a valuation report which the commission intends to use as evidence in a case it has filed before court against the owners of the ill-fated dam.
Police in Solai have prevented our lawyers from meeting victims of the Solai dam tragedy.
The purpose of the meeting was to update the victims on criminal cases against Patel farm owners and 2 civil cases for compensation #TruthOnPatelKillerDam #KOT #WeWillNotYield pic.twitter.com/swbWesz33Q
— KHRC (@thekhrc) August 18, 2020
A contingent of anti-riot arrived at the venue and ordered the villagers to disperse on grounds that conveners had not notified relevant authorities.
A senior officer from Solai Police Station who declined to identify himself said the meeting could not proceed because it contravened the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines by the Ministry of Health.
He said Police officers had firm instructions from the County Commander in Nakuru enforce the law and ensure the guidelines are observed by everybody. He vowed to ensure that no future meetings proceed in the area for now.
Last month the High Court in Naivasha put on hold a decision of a magistrate’s court to acquit nine suspects charged with causing the death of 49 people during the Solai Dam tragedy.
Justice Richard Mwongo ordered a stay of the ruling by Chief Magistrate Kennedy Bidali who acquitted the suspects, among them Patel Dam owner Perry Mansukh, and his manager, Mr Vinoj Kumar.
The order followed an appeal by the Kenya Human Rights Commission contesting the ruling.
During the tragedy in May 2018, 41 were injured while 223 households lost their homes and almost 5,000 people were displaced.
Mr Kegoro said it was improper for police to disrupt the meeting as it was a situation where a lawyer was meeting his clients.
He said they had involved the department of health in Nakuru who provided a public health officer to ensure that protocols including social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing were observed.
“We were compliant. Police are being speculative because they did not allow us to proceed with the meeting. All we wanted is to prepare a valuation on property that was damaged which is required as evidence in court” said the executive director
Mr Kegoro claimed that a previous meeting before Covid-19 broke out had also been cancelled last year.
Jane Ekuru who lost two children in the tragedy appealed to the government to donate relief supplies and sanitation equipment to survivors whose suffering had been aggravated by Covid-19 outbreak.
Esther Waithera who lost all her four children and her husband called on courts to expedite all matters before court on the tragedy so that victims and survivors can move on.