UN experts enjoin Kenya to protect environmental defenders

The Kenyan Government must urgently take measures to protect defenders who have faced harassment and intimidation after they testified against a local lead smelter accused of environmental pollution, UN human rights experts say.

Cases of lead poisoning have been reported in the area near the smelter.

Alfred Ogola, Wilfred Kamencu, Anastacia Nambo and Kavumbi Munga and several others have been subjected to threats following the first hearing against the plant on 17 May. They are due to testify again in a class action lawsuit against the Government and the lead smelter for violating the right to a healthy environment guaranteed under Article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya.

“Unknown people have visited their homes at night repeatedly banging on their doors, yelling at them to come out of their house,” the experts said. “One of them had been attacked with an unknown substance which caused eye problems and swelling.

“It is unacceptable that they are repeatedly threatened, harassed, intimidated and assaulted and no one has been held accountable.”

This is the third time UN experts have called on the Government to protect and promote the rights of the environmentalists. The UN experts officially relayed their concerns to the Government in 2014, 2017 and again last week. The Government has not responded on any occasion.

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“The Government should urgently launch a proper investigation and bring those who are responsible to justice,” the experts said.

Many of them have reported these threats to police, the experts said, however investigations appear slow and inadequate. The defenders fear for their safety and life, and are seeking for help to be relocated.

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“These environmental defenders should not face threats, harassment, and intimidation when they are exercising their rights legitimately through a legal action. On the contrary, they should be championed for upholding the Constitution of Kenya,” the experts said.

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