22 June 2018

Kenya: Normalcy Returns to Solai Farm as Dam Tragedy Victims Cry Foul


All is not well in Solai, Nakuru County, two months after the Patel dam broke its banks and flooded areas downstream, killing 47 people.

A visit to the scene of the tragedy reveals that the victims are frustrated but trying to pick up the pieces. But to their shock, a fence separating surrounding villages and the farm destroyed by the dam has been erected afresh to allow activities to resume.

In addition, a few residents have resumed duties at the farm as casual labourers.

All this is happening as the victims feel abandoned by their long-time neighbour, tycoon Mansukhlal Patel, whom they have been living with for decades.


"Where is Patel? He owes us an apology. We have given him enough time to deal with what happened but he only sends his managers. He should come out and apologise to those affected."

These are some of the questions that are begging for answers amongst the victims.

Dignitaries have stopped arriving in helicopters and there are no longer convoys of vehicles racing through the rough road that connects Solai to the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, ferrying emergency medical care and food to the victims.

Life has moved on for everyone else but, for the residents of Solai, it will be a long time before anything feels "normal".

The landscape and the people bear scars of the destruction the water left in its wake.

Besides the deaths, the dam tragedy left over 5,000 people displaced in addition to massive destruction occasioned by the burst dam waters which flattened the sleepy Energy village before sweeping through Nyakinyua farm.

At the Patel farm, according to some residents, work started almost immediately after the disaster. Operations have been going on and the area in the farm destroyed by the floods has been renovated; even a fence has been erected to bar people from accessing the farm.


Despite the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) taking up the matter, the owner of the killer dam is still a free man, two months later.

An investigation into what exactly transpired remains just that ... synonymous to many other investigations on similar tragedies whose results remain a mirage.

Sources at the prosecutor's office said last week that the DPP, Mr Noordin Haji, had written to the Nakuru County Criminal Investigations Officer asking for statements from Nakuru county government and the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) concerning the tragedy.

Nema is supposed to shed light on whether an environmental impact assessment was carried out on the dam according to the law, while the Nakuru county government is expected to clarify whether the dam was ever inspected and approved by county officials in line with the county development plans.


"Other agencies have already submitted their statements and the only thing holding up the investigations is the delay by Nema and Nakuru County government to comply," said the source.

"The blame is still on Mr Patel, he is our neighbour and we need each other, but not showing any interest in condoling with the victims is not natural. Hasn't he found time to visit us to date? He should show a gesture of a good neighbour," said a Mr Kariuki, who lost three members of his family.

The victims, many of whom have been working at the farm for years, are surprised by Mr Patel's reaction.

"He has never indicated any remorse or apology to the victims; he has never come to the ground to see the damage his dam caused on people's lives," said an-other resident, Stephen Kariuki.

Work on the farm is going on as usual but the residents are disturbed that the farm owner does not seem to be remorseful over the damage his dam caused.


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