Last week, we featured the story of Phyllis Omido, an environmental activist who battled against a lead smelting factory and eventually got it shut down. She won the prestigious Goldman award for her efforts. The factory in question is in the vicinity of Owino Uhuru slums in Changamwe, Mombasa.
— ~~ jammy ~~ #147 (@mombasa_gal) April 26, 2015
The lead pollution from the plant has caused a lot of misery to the residents of Owino Uhuru slums. People have died, women miscarried and children have lost their cognitive abilities due to lead poisoning. For her efforts, Phyllis Omido has paid a heavy personal price.
The factory owners were behind her trial in 2012 in what can be summed up as judicial harassment. She has been threatened with text messages telling her to stop speaking about Owino Uhuru. She tells of how she escaped an attempted kidnapping and had to move houses after armed men came after her.
It got so bad that she would sleep under the bed with her son,
“….if someone peeked through the window they wouldn’t have been able to see us.”
The perpetrators of these crimes and their accomplices were finally exposed in an investigative documentary aired on KTN on 26th March. Kenyans gave their feedback in a lively debate which has been trending under
#PlagueforProfit and #FutariyaSumu. An outraged citizenry, has been expressing its shock and disgust for blantant human rights abuse, greed and corruption.
— Emmanuel Mutisya (@immanuelmutisya) April 26, 2015
— Rahab Njeri Mwathi (@NjeriMwathi) April 26, 2015
The factory, Kenya Metal Refinery, operated in full accordance to the law. They had all the necessary licences and clearances despite the deadly pollution. Questions about how they manged to get all the licences and who facilitated them were brought up. National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) especially, will be hard pressed to explain how they cleared Kenya Metal Refinery and were unaware of the pollution going on.
— Christopher Kirwa (@chriskirwa) April 26, 2015
The report shows how local leaders were involved in the factory. Former Changamwe MP Ramadhan Kajembe who was also an assistant minister for environment could was hard pressed to explain how the ills of the factory escaped his notice all that time he was MP.
In another twist, Nyali MP Hezron Awiti was exposed as the owner of the building that houses the factory. This elicited strong reactions against the two politicians, who are seen to have colluded with an industry that resulted in the deaths of an electorate they should have been protecting.
— Mohamed Shahid (@ShahidMoha) April 26, 2015
Phyllis Omido is not relenting in her quest for justice for the poor slum dwellers. She wants to see justice served against those that covered up and facilitated the crimes against Owino Uhuru residents. For now, she has the public’s support. Will the wheels of justice move?
Failure is making environment protection an elitist affair. Elites don’t feel the pinch yet. The poor do & know something needs to change. — Center for JGEA (@PhyllisOmido) July 30, 2014