Pollution lobby faults police over demo ban

A civil society organisation has vowed to push for compensation to hundreds of residents of Owino Uhuru in Mombasa County affected by lead poisoning.

Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA) wants the government to release Sh200 million awarded to the residents by court.

CJGEA Director Phylis Omido said a planned demonstration against the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) scheduled for February 1 will go on despite police outlawing it.

Jomvu sub-county police commander Joseph Ongaya stopped the protest citing security risks.

But Omido dismissed claims that her intention was to gain political mileage through ‘premature’ election campaigns under the guise of pushing for compensation.

In 2020, the Environment and Lands Court ordered the government to compensate residents of Owino Uhuru Estate for the health complications suffered due to lead poisoning.

The government was ordered to shoulder the burden alongside two private investors for failing to honour the legal call of being custodians of a healthy and habitable environment.

In her ruling, made electronically from Busia County, Justice Anne Omollo also told the State to clear soil and water wastes that have littered the estate and posed health dangers to the residents.

The case was filed back on August 20, 2015, by Omido. 

Today, Omido said they had notified the police of their intention to hold the peaceful protest as required by the law.

“Despite following procedures to hold a peaceful protest against the EPZA, we were denied the right to do so. We are not seeking political mileage but fighting for the rights of those affected by lead poisoning,” she said.

She was responding to a letter signed by Ongaya which stopped the protest. Omido accused the police of applying the law selectively.

“The Environment and Lands High Court ruled in 2020 that the EPZA was to pay the poisoning victims at Owino Uhuru compensation within 90 days which has not been complied with,” she said.