Phyllis Omido has won a landmark class action suit against the owners of a lead smelter plant on behalf of the Owimo Uhuru community in Mombasa, Kenya.
The “ruling comes after years of grassroots work by environmental activist Phyllis Omido, who launched a legal challenge against the government and the smelting plant owners, accusing them of violating Kenyan environmental and human rights laws and exposing the community to lead poisoning”, says CNN reporter Bukola Adebayo. This fight began for Phyllis after both she and her two-year old son got sick from the smelting plant. The plant was responsible for causing environmental damage and health complications that led to more than 50 fatalities, and the plant was ultimately forced to shut down in 2014.
“It’s really great, its energizing… I’ve been to the community, the people are excited. They have hope now. Some of them had lost hope,” Omido told the BBC. “Today they’ve finally seen a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Omido, a 2017 New Voices Fellow, founded the Center For Justice Governance & Environmental Action (CJGEA), to fight for justice for her entire community. She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her efforts. (You can read more about her efforts here: https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/phyllis-omido/)
Beyond this being the first of its kind in Kenya, this ruling sets a powerful precedent for other African judicial systems to deliver justice to victims of environmental rights violations. According to the CJGEA, it also serves as a wake-up call to investors, companies and governments, who often put profits ahead of the environment and the health of its citizens.
Omido said her organization was going to apply the lessons learned to other pressing environmental cases around Kenya.
“We are very energized and we know that there are several cases that Kenyans have brought to our offices asking for assistance… this gives us even more confidence to continue to do the work.”
The New Voices family congratulates Phyllis, and CJGEA, on this achievement!
- CJGEA Press Release
- Daily Nation: “State ordered to pay Sh1.3bn to Owinu Uhuru lead poisoning victims”
- BBC Sounds: “Kenya court orders $12m payout for lead poisoning“
- CNN: “Residents of a Kenyan village awarded $12 million in a lawsuit over lead poisoning”
- Human Rights Watch: “Landmark decision in Kenya lead pollution case”
- The Guardian: “Kenya environmental defenders win landmark $12m court battle”