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January 17, 2019

NGOs clash over Owino Uhuru clean up

Residents of Owino Uhuru Estate, Jomvu, demonstrate led by environ- ment activist Phylis Omido, against a lead company in the area on Novem- ber 3, 2013. / JOHN CHESOLI
Residents of Owino Uhuru Estate, Jomvu, demonstrate led by environ- ment activist Phylis Omido, against a lead company in the area on Novem- ber 3, 2013. / JOHN CHESOLI

Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko has been asked to instruct investigations on Haki Yetu, a Mombasa-based civil society organisation, for allegedly trying to mislead Owino Uhuru residents in their search for justice.

Phyllis Omido, the 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Winner, said Haki Yetu has frustrated the community in their quest for clean and safe environment.

Omido’s Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action has filed a petition at the Environment and Lands Court in Mombasa to have the Owino Uhuru land cleaned up of contaminated waters and soils.

The land is adjacent to the Metal Refinery (EPZ) Ltd, which was closed down for emitting lead poison.

The residents of the 13.5 acre village in Changamwe constituency, have lost several of their relatives to lead poisoning.

During this process, the locals will have to be moved to another area.

In a statement to media houses, Omido said that on February 3, Haki Yetu Organisation threatened Mzee Alfred Ogolla for allegedly withholding information regarding the petition.

She said the organisation tried to forcefully take the documents from Ogolla, and threatened residents that they will be evicted from their land if the petition goes through.

“This is a criminal and we ask the DPP to step in and demand an investigation into the involvement of Haki Yetu organisation in this,” she said.

Haki Yetu Organisation has however refuted the claims that it threatened Mzee Ogolla and tried to mislead the residents on the matter.

John Paul of Haki Yetu, who was personally accused by Omido of threatening Ogolla, told the Star that the organisation actually helped the community secure a title deed for the land.

“We helped Owino Uhuru residents get the title deed. We are now surprised that even after writing letter to National Land Commission to have the land demarcated, Omido is coming up with a petition to have the people moved to another area,” Paul said.

“We are not against Omido. But what we are saying is that every resident should be involved. We want to know what will be the process of moving these people to other areas.”

According to Paul, the case in which they represented Owino Uhuru residents, they had 216 affected families and everyone was involved.

“But in Omido’s case we are only seeing nine residents and others. Who are these others?” he posed.

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