A dangerous industry to be brought under control in Kenya

In July 2020, slum dwellers on the coast of Kenya received a long-awaited court decision.

A Kenyan court ordered compensation of € 10.2 million for residents of the Owino Uhuru slum who had become ill due to lead emissions from the metal smelter.

The Indian-owned metal smelter polluted the area for eight years in total, causing serious illnesses, miscarriages and even deaths. When the small son of Phyllis Omido became ill, she founded the organisation Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA). The organisation helped residents to campaign against the factory and urge the authorities to intervene. The case attracted a lot of media attention in Kenya, and in 2014, the factory was closed. Other factories were also closed later.

The organisation helped the residents to take the case to court. The court decision, obtained after a long legal battle, means that residents can finally receive help for the treatment of illnesses and medicines. The area surrounding the smelter was also ordered to be cleaned. The compensation will be paid by, among others, the Kenyan state and the owners of the metal smelter.

No compensation has been paid so far, because the National Environment Management Authority has appealed against the court decision. Nevertheless, the case is an important precedent, forcing the Kenyan authorities to better control the factories. In the future, companies will also have a higher threshold for breaching environmental regulations because they know they may be held liable.

KIOS has been supporting the work of CJGEA since 2015.

“Owino Uhuru’s battle for a clean environment is about the life, existence and continuity of our community. The adversities we faced only drove us forward, because losing would have meant death for so many,” says Phyllis Omido, the face of the organisation.

Watch also our video about Phyllis Omido: https://youtu.be/ylfVebWtXx4