Kenya dam collapse: Nine suspects cleared of manslaughter charges

The destroyed area is seen after the bank of the private Patel dam, used for irrigation and fish farming, burst in Solai, about 40km north of Nakuru, Kenya Image copyright AFP
Image caption The dam, near the town of Solai, burst its banks after heavy rain in May 2018

A court in Kenya has acquitted nine people charged with causing the deaths of nearly 50 people following the collapse of a dam in 2018.

The accused - who included the dam owner - were cleared of manslaughter in Naivasha, north of the capital Nairobi.

Delivering the ruling on Monday, the chief magistrate cited a lack of commitment from prosecutors.

Prosecutors said they would appeal against the decision. The accused had all denied wrongdoing.

The dam, near the town of Solai, 190km (120 miles) from Nairobi, burst its banks after heavy rain in May 2018.

A deluge of water swept through farmland and engulfed parts of Solai, killing dozens and destroying homes.

Investigations into the tragedy found the dam was constructed by unqualified staff and had breached environmental laws.

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Media captionJohn Mwangi describes the pain of losing his wife in the Solai dam disaster

The dam owner and several government officials were among the nine who were arrested and charged over the collapse of the dam, known as Patel or Solai.

But after 18 months in court, Naivasha Chief Magistrate Kennedy Bilali set the suspects free, citing little progress with the case.

He accused the prosecution of holding the court hostage with endless adjournment requests, saying the accused deserved a fair trial.

A defence lawyer for the accused, named FI Mburu by local media, welcomed the ruling, telling the court that justice had been done.

"In the period the nine suspects have not missed any single day and we are asking the court to discharge the sureties of the accused," he said, according to Kenyan newspaper, the Star.

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