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Owino Uhuru lead poisoning victims now sue State for Sh1.6 billion

By Benard Sanga | August 20th 2015

Mombasa, Kenya: Residents of Owino Uhuru in Changamwe Constituency who were affected by lead poisoning caused by a smelting plant in the area have resolved to sue the national government and factory directors for compensation.

They are seeking Sh1.6 billion compensation, saying their lives and health have been ruined or affected adversely and they need money for constant medication. The 3,000 victims want to be compensated for medical complications and deaths that arose from the alleged negligence.

They claim the State and protection agencies failed to monitor lead emissions and effluent from the Kenya Metal Refinery.

According to documents seen by The Standard, Nyali MP Hezron Awiti, allegedly one of the directors of the defunct Kenya Metal Refinery, is listed as the respondent.  The legislator has in the past denied this and exonerated himself from blame.

"The Constitution is clear that it is the responsibility of the Government to provide a safe environment to its citizens and that is why we have to sue it and it must compensate the community for violation of their constitutional rights," Goldman Environmental Award winner Phyllis Omido said.

The residents spoke yesterday after a three-hour meeting with a group lawyers from Kituo Cha Sheria at their Mombasa offices.

Omido said both parties are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding before the end of the week.

"This is the first public interest litigation to be filed involving 3,000 people from 580 households including former workers. Residents are demanding Sh1.6 billion. The amount is not high compared to the number of those affected and those who lost their lives," said Omido, whose son was also affected by the said lead poison.

She said the money would help the affected families seek specialised treatment and enable them to reconstruct their lives.

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