Opinion

There's no justice for the society's poor

There's no justice for the society's poor
  • We’ve witnessed this in the collapse of residential buildings that have killed many Kenyans yet owners of these buildings aren’t prosecuted.
  • Instead, we ask that the people in buildings prone to collapse to relocate which doesn’t address the problem of unregulated construction.

Kenya is a country where poverty is a capital offence, I mean exactly that. Poor people are denied the right to justice, quality services and unwavering protection for the obvious reason that they’re poor. The systemic disregard that poor people are forced to endure cannot be more visible than in the judicial system. In this system, court cases snail for years with zero progress especially when these cases are supposed to be in favour of poor people. This is what happened in the Solai dam tragedy where the victims have been outrightly denied justice.In May 2018, 48 people lost their lives when an illegally constructed man-made dam within the vast Patel Coffee Estates located in Solai broke its banks. The early signs of notable cracks and leaking were paid no heed even though the people living in the area were right to be concerned about their safety. Poor people are often the ones who pay the highest price of impunity, negligence and systemic failures with their own lives just like in Solai tragedy. People died, hundreds of lives were disrupted and massive property loss yet no one will be held accountable.After 18 months of adjournment, the case was finally dismissed. The suspects walked free after the Chief Magistrate ruled that there was a lack of willingness and support from the Director of Public Prosecution office in the case. What do we, as the Kenyan people and most specifically, the Solai people make of this? Reports revealed that the dam was not licensed meaning right from its existence to its 15 years of operation, it was an illegal entity. An entity which should demand that those responsible for its existence be punished by law but here we are with systems failing when we need them to work.One important fact is that it is these failed prosecutions that exacerbate and embolden impunity. It is precisely this inability of state institutions to do their work that breeds the ground for man-made disasters. We’ve witnessed this in the collapse of residential buildings that have killed many Kenyans yet owners of these buildings aren’t prosecuted. Instead, we ask that the people in buildings prone to collapse to relocate which doesn’t address the problem of unregulated construction.Solai dam was one of these unregulated and illegal constructions which should never have happened to begin with. It points out to a huge gap in leadership, regulating and licensing bodies plus the Judiciary. Laws become nothing but spoken words when they can’t protect the people without power. A repeat of man-made tragedies is therefore guaranteed to occur when those culpable do not face justice.

Ms Okore is policy analyst.