Court acquits Kenya Power staff accused of economic sabotage

Kenya Power technicians at work.

Kenya Power technicians at work. Kahawa Law Courts has acquitted three senior staff of Kenya Power who had been charged over their alleged role in a nationwide blackout following the collapse of high voltage lines in Nairobi in January 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kahawa Law Courts, which is domiciled within Kiambu County, has acquitted three senior staff of Kenya Power Company (KPLC), who had been charged over their alleged role in a nationwide blackout that affected the country in January this year, citing lack of evidence. The three had been accused of economic sabotage.

But the Kahawa court last week ruled in their favour, accusing the prosecution of failing to provide sufficient evidence to prosecute the matter.

With the case not sustainable, Senior Principal Magistrate Boaz Ombewa set free Mr Raphael Kimeu (acting General Manager, Network Management), Mr David Kamau (Manager, Transmission Network Department) and Mr Julius Mwaniki (Second Assistant Engineer, Transmission Department) who had been accused of sabotage and neglect of official duties.

The three had on January 26 been charged with failure to maintain and reinforce the Dandora-Embakasi high voltage power lines used for the supply of electricity in the country, paralysing activities across the country.

But while acquitting them, the magistrate concurred with defence lawyer Ng’ang’a Mbugua that the three senior KPLC staff were not liable for the collapse of the towers.

No prima facie case

"In the upshot, I make a finding that no prima facie case has been established against the accused persons to warrant them being put on their defence. I accordingly acquit each of the accused persons on all the charges levelled against them as per the law," the magistrate said in his judgement.

Mr Ombewa in his ruling noted that none of the 22 witnesses who testified during trial linked Mr Kimeu, Mr Kamau and Mr Mwaniki to the destruction and damage that led to the collapse of the KPLC towers.

"From the evidence on record, there is no evidence to prove that the accused persons wilfully neglected to attend to Dandora-Embakasi high voltage transmission power towers," Mr Ombewa ruled.

He added, “Whereas  it is clear towers nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14 were vandalised and subsequently collapsed, none of the prosecution witnesses gave evidence to prove that any of the accused persons destroyed, damaged or in any way undertook any act to impair the said towers."

Rampant vandalism

The magistrate said the dominant view by all the prosecution witnesses was that incidences of vandalism of KPLC towers were so rampant that the electricity company could not keep pace.

"A missing bracing would be replaced on a given day and would be vandalised the following day," he said.

The magistrate dismissed a joint task force report by Kenya Power and the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company which had allegedly warned of the imminent collapse of the towers.

"The accused did not participate in the task force report nor was it shared with them," he said.

He similarly dismissed KPLC acting managing director Rosemary Odour's testimony of an email that warned senior staff of the impending collapse of the towers due to vandalism.

Their arrest in January came in the wake of increased vandalism, especially of government infrastructure, which President Uhuru Kenyatta described then as economic sabotage.

Power outages

Between December 4, 2021 and January 11, 2022, the country experienced three major power outages caused by collapsed power transmission lines.

He went ahead and banned any further dealing in scrap metal until guidelines to regulate the sector were put in place.

The president tasked Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Energy counterpart Monica Juma, alongside National Government Administration Officers, Critical Infrastructure Protection Unit commanders and top KPLC and energy sector managers to come up with the regulations for the scrap metal trade in the country so as to tame the vandalism menace.