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Court quashes report requiring county official be charged for Huruma house collapse tragedy

Justus Mwendwa Kathenge (centre) with other co-accused

NAIROBI: Justus Kathenge is a firm believer in our judicial system and he has every reason to be. Justice has been a shield and defender for the county director of planning and compliance every time a building in Nairobi collapses.

Whenever a building collapses in the city he has found himself in the dock charged with negligence and manslaughter. But each time the High Court has come to his aid.

And justice has once again served him well after the court quashed a report by the Ombudsman requiring him to be prosecuted for the Huruma tragedy that killed over 20 people. This is the third time he is off the hook over collapsed buildings. Mr Kathenge was arraigned in court on May 3, 2016, alongside the owners of the Huruma building Samuel Karanja and Henry Karanja, National Authority Director Chrispas Ndinyo and Mathare Administrator Seline Ogolla.

Though the court had cleared him over the Huruma tragedy earlier, the Commission on Administrative Justice had published a report in which it blamed Kathenge for laxity and wanted him prosecuted. But he moved to court again and obtained orders that no one should charge or take action emanating from information in report by the Ombudsman.

CAJ out of order        

In 2011, the court saved him from prosecution on charges of negligence and manslaughter after a building in Embakasi collapsed, killing four people. High Court judge George Odunga ruled that CAJ had overstepped its mandate as it cannot direct the Inspector General of Police on what he ought to do in terms of investigations.

“I agree that the respondent has no power to direct the Inspector General of Police on how and when to conduct investigations,” said Justice Odunga.

“It is my view and I find that the manner in which the proceedings leading to the findings in the impugned report was conducted was tainted with procedural impropriety as the applicant has never afforded an opportunity of being heard throughout the process of investigation.”

In the Embakasi, case Kathenge was set free by the court four years later after he blocked his prosecution before Kibera Magistrates’ Court.

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