Police on Tuesday stopped a meeting convened by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) for survivors of Solai Dam tragedy that claimed over 40 lives two years ago.
The KHRC Executive Director, George Kegoro said the meeting was organised to strategize 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.
A contingent of anti-riot police 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 to 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 the Chief Magistrate, Kennedy Bidali who acquitted the suspects, among them Patel Dam owner, Perry Mansukh and his Manager, Vinoj Kumar.
The order followed an appeal by the Kenya Human Rights Commission contesting the ruling.
During the tragedy in May 2018, 41 people were injured, while 223 households lost their homes and close to 5,000 people were displaced.
Kegoro said it was wrong 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 commission executive director.
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.
By Anne Mwale