The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has demanded the immediate release of investigative reports by various government agencies into the Patel Dam tragedy a month ago.
It further wants investigations into the conduct of government officials demanding bribes from victims in exchange for help, and those intimidating their representatives not to speak out about the challenges they are facing.
“We demand urgent investigation of those alleged to be threatening and intimidating representatives of the victims and the prosecution of those found culpable,” said KHRC Executive Director George Kegoro.
He was accompanied by other KHRC officials in Solai, Nakuru County, during the launch of a fact-finding report on the tragedy on Wednesday.
KHRC also called for the disbandment of the team of investigators drawn from the offices of the Inspector-General of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions for allegedly bungling investigations into the incident.
The dam, located on a farm owned by tycoon Mansukul Patel, burst its banks a month ago, killing 47 people and displacing hundreds of families.
KHRC also wants the Nakuru County Government to launch investigations into claims of labour rights violations hin the Patel Coffee Estate farms in Solai.
Mr Kegoro said KHRC had received complaints that workers’ rights were being violated on the farms.
“We call upon the labour office in Nakuru County to initiate regular inspections within the Patel Coffee Estate farms with a view to assessing rights’ violations and taking the necessary legal actions,” added Mr Kegoro.
It emerged that the victims have complained on various occasions that a chief in the area has been demanding bribes in order to include them in the list for compensation and omitting the names of those who do not cooperate.
The victims’ Chairman, Mr John Mwangi, claimed that the chief made 40 people miss out on the cash given by the Red Cross for their upkeep.
But Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mongo Chimwaga on Wednesday refuted the claims, saying the local administration did not touch the money since it was sent directly to the victims by M-Pesa.
“The allegations are untrue. Local leaders did not come into contact with the money,” said Mr Chimwaga.
According to Mr Chimwaga the list was generated after all the victims were consulted and no complaint has ever been raised with authorities about the list.
The commission visited the victims to carry out their own investigations into the aftermath of the tragedy beginning last month.
In its report, the commission noted that government agencies had slept on their job, thus proposing for them to pull up their socks.
The human rights defenders called for an independent multi-agency team to investigate the matter to avoid interference by rogue officials from both the County and National governments.
“We want the Patel Coffee Estates, Warma and Nema to be investigated so that it can determine what led to the unfortunate tragedy,” Mr Kegoro said.
The report also demanded for fast-tracking of the finalisation of a DNA process of a child who died during the tragedy, but whose body is still at the mortuary due to two families laying claim on the body.
The human rights body also wants the government to provide school uniforms to affected students and foodstuffs for a further period beyond three months to the victims.