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5 Aug 2022

Brian Ocharo, Nation (Kenya)

Kenya: Victims of lead poisoning by Metal Refinery (EPZ) to wait longer for compensation pending appeal by state

"Owino Uhuru dwellers to wait longer for payout in lead poisoning case"

Victims of lead poisoning in the Owino Uhuru slum in Changamwe, Mombasa County, will have to wait another five months to find out whether they will be paid Sh1.3 billion in compensation awarded by a court two years ago...But the state, aggrieved by the award, appealed to overturn the decision.

In their final submissions, the victims urged the Court of Appeal to find that the government agencies and private companies sued in the matter were properly found liable for the pollution in the slum that affected their health. They argue that all documents tabled in court prove that the environment watchdog Nema allowed Metal Refinery (EPZ) Ltd to operate without first obtaining the necessary licence...They say Nema knew about the pollution but failed to take action until the slum dwellers started experiencing the effects of the environmental contamination...

The decision by the state agency to appeal against the award came as a setback for the affected families, who have been waiting patiently after losing their loved ones and suffering irreversible health complications due to exposure to poisonous substances. The appellate court will review what the government agencies said were incorrect interpretations by the Environment and Land Court...In the ruling, Nema had 40 per cent culpability for failing to discharge its mandate, thereby exposing residents to the negative effects of poison from the factory. Metals Refineries (EPZ) Ltd is to pay 25 per cent of the money awarded because it was the direct source of the poison while Penguin and Book Company was directed to shoulder five per cent for leasing out its land to the factory.