Coca-Cola wins case on tree its driver destroyed

Justice George Ongondo found the case wanting as Michael Otieno, Walter Opiyo, and Evance Otieno drafted it as a constitutional issue. [iStockphoto]

The Environment and Lands Court has dismissed a case filed by three men seeking orders to compel an international soft drinks manufacturer to re-plant a tree destroyed in 2017.

Justice George Ongondo found that the case against Coca-Cola Company, Kisii Bottlers, and Almasi Ltd wanting.

The judge said that although Michael Otieno, Walter Opiyo and Evance Otieno had cited the Constitution, they could not justify how a destroyed tree became a dispute invoking the court’s powers to interpret Kenya’s supreme law.

“I'm of the considered view that the petitioners have not met the threshold of a constitutional petition. Therefore, they are not entitled to the remedies sought in the petition… So, how does this become a constitutional matter? ” said Justice Ongondo.

The three told the court that Coca-Cola’s lorry destroyed the sycamore fig tree, know as bongu in dholuo.

The petitioners had also named Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga as an interested party, claimed he planted the tree on August 2, 2014, at Bunge la Wenye Nchi Grounds in Homa Bay.

According to Opiyo, Otieno, and Evance, the driver who destroyed the tree while reversing had promised to replace it. However, they said, he brought a different tree.

They claimed that efforts to have the same kind of tree replanted bore no fruit.

Justice Ongondo observed that the parties in the case had initially agreed to resolve the case through an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.

However, they never came to an amicable resolution.

In their reply, the accused argued that there was no constitutional issue that had been raised. 

According to Almasi’s chief human resources officer Timothy Muthini, the case was more about the value of the sycamore trees, not a constitutional dispute.

He said that Almasi had offered Sh68,000 to buy, plant and maintain another tree.