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MOVE TO APPEAL COURT

Long wait for justice for Solai Dam victims

The four accused were acquitted, a new trial ordered but they want the Appeal Court to uphold acquittal.

In Summary

• The four accused were acquitted in the first trial, causing outrage. A fresh trial was ordered. 

• The four, including the owner of the property where the dam was located, want their acquittal upheld. The owner has sought an out-of-court settlement.

Solai Dam suspects Johnson Njuguna and Perry Manusukh confer with lawyer Fredrick Masinde at the Naivasha law courts during first trial. They were acquitted and a retrial ordered.
TRAGEDY: Solai Dam suspects Johnson Njuguna and Perry Manusukh confer with lawyer Fredrick Masinde at the Naivasha law courts during first trial. They were acquitted and a retrial ordered.
Image: GEORGE MURAGE

Four people acquitted in the Solai Dam collapse that killed 48 people have challenged the High Court decision to try them afresh.

Led by the farm owner Perry Manusukh, on whose land the dam was located, they want the Appeal Court to uphold their acquittal in March.

In April, however, Justice Richard Mwongo had termed the decision by a lower court to acquit nine accused persons unconstitutional and ordered a retrial by another court.

But as Naivasha senior resident magistrate Lyna Sarapai moved to start the trial, it emerged that an application was pending in the Court of Appeal with a ruling expected on July 13.

Addressing the court through video conference, advocate F.I. Mburu said the accused had appealed the ruling by Justice Mwongo.

Mburu said that a ruling now by Court of Appeal would complicate the way forward on the case that has dragged on for two years.

“Currently our clients who live in different parts of the country cannot travel due to the Covid-19 regulations and we are seeking they be allowed to be absent as we dispense with the current applications,” he said.

Advocate Ferdinand Masinde said they were still opposed to enjoining the victims of the tragedy in the criminal case.

He told the magistrate on July 25, 2019, the victims through sworn affidavits had disassociated themselves from parties willing to be enjoined.

However, State counsel Alex Muteti opposed the call to block the victims from being enjoined, saying any decision would affect their lives.

He said the Court of Appeal was yet to rule on the appeal by the four,  adding that the lower court should carry on.

“We should not be held to ransom by the Court of Appeal as it has not made its decision on the appeal and this court should go ahead and dispense with the pending applications,” he said.

Manusukh and the others are charged with 48 counts of manslaughter stemming from the collapse on May 9, 2018, of the dam and for failing to prepare an environmental impact assessment. 

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

The magistrate will give directions on July 23.

(Edited by V. Graham)