The recent feature by Kenya Television Network (KTN) named Profits for Plague exposes serious human rights violations by Metal Refineries (EPZ) Limited and its affiliate entities on communities living in Uhuru Owino in Mombasa. The level of impunity depicted by the company was highly appalling and the inordinate complacency of government institutions charged with safeguarding the rights of its citizenry shocking. The feature revealed gross human rights abuses including irreversible damage to the health of community, dangerous labour conditions, unrealistically low wages, discrimination against workers, abuse of children’s rights and severe environmental degradation. Visibly, years of wanton destruction of the environment has resulted to increased mortality, slow cognitive development among children, debilitating health and generally increased vulnerability of the community living in the area.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission strongly condemns the actions of Metal Refineries (EPZ) Limited. Further, the Commission is extremely concerned by the inaction of government institutions charged with licencing, regulation, enforcement and compliance. The inaction further intensified the human rights violations. Of particular note, we would like to highlight the following:
- The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) failed to adhere to provisions of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act in issuing a licence to Kenya Metal Refineries Limited and neglected to conduct further monitoring even after receiving reports on the unlawful and irresponsible emission and disposal of toxic fumes and waste ; and
- the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health of the Mombasa County Government failed to pursue and enforce requirements under the Public Health Act to remove the toxic substances such as lead that are dangerous to the health of workers and communities living in Owino Uhuru.
The Constitution of Kenya binds the State and all persons including corporate bodies to respect human rights. On this basis, businesses have responsibility to take into account the impact of their operations on human rights. The Government on its part has a duty to protect citizens against violations by third parties.
We therefore demand:
- that Government, as a matter of urgency, conducts elaborate screening of the community members and provides treatment to all those that are found to have lead poisoning;
- that the Government fulfills its obligation under Article 21(3) of the Bill of Rights by evacuating all residents of Owino Uhuru to avoid further exposure to lead poisoning and providing rehabilitation and psychosocial support for all affected persons;
- that NEMA immediately issues a comprehensive Environmental Restoration Order to Metal Refineries (EPZ) Limited and/or its affiliates as provided for under Section 108 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act to restore Owino Uhuru to its original state;
- that the Government provides protection for the community representatives who have been threatened following exposure of the human rights abuses by Metal Refineries EPZ) Limited;
- the Director of Public Prosecution institute proceedings against the owners of Metal Refineries (EPZ) Limited as an offence under the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act; and
- that the Government fulfills its duty under Article 21(4) of the Bill of Rights to enact and implement legislation in respect of human rights by developing a policy and law to address violations of human rights by business entities
- that after full audit of the Environmental Social Impact Assessment the victims be fully compensated.
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Audrey Kawire Wabwire | Communications Manager | E: [email protected]