A Naivasha court on Monday acquitted nine suspects charged with the death of at least 48 people in the Solai dam tragedy in May 2018.
In his ruling, Naivasha Chief Magistrate Kennedy Bidali stated that the court had arrived at the decision over the lack of “willingness” by the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to prosecute the case.
The magistrate noted that 48 months since the case kicked off, the prosecution had failed to produce witnesses/witness statements denying the suspects right to a fair trial.
This, he said, made it nearly impossible for the court to make progress on the matter as adjournments were the order of the day.
“The court has on various occasions set aside twelve days for the case to be heard only for the prosecution to miss out without giving a proper explanation,” he said.
The magistrate added, “No court should be held ransom by the office of the DPP and the accused have the right to fair and speedy trial but the prosecution has time and again proved it was not ready to handle this case.”
He pointed out that the ODPP had last year indicated that there were plans to enter into a plea bargain with the owners of the dam, but by the time of making the ruling no report had been tabled before the court.
Managing director Perry Mansukh Kansagara and general manager Vinoj Kumar of Patel Coffee Estates were charged with manslaughter over the May 9 tragedy that left the 48 people dead, scored injured and thousands homeless.
Others who faced similar charges are Johnson Njuguna, Luka Kipyegen, Winnie Muthoni, Jacinta Were, Tomkin Odo Odhiambo, Willie Omondi and Lynette Cheruiyot.
As the suspects walked out of the court smiling, victims of the tragedy walked home dejected decrying injustice.
On her part, state counsel Catherine Mwaniki stated that the ODPP will appeal the ruling.