Newswire : Kenya, going green, slams the door on plastic bags

Kenyan man with cloth bag
Kenyan carrying cloth bag at market
Aug. 28, 2017 (GIN) – If it’s a choice between suffocating seabirds, strangling turtles or the convenience of a plastic bag, Kenya is taking the side of marine animals.

Starting this week, citizens producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000. It’s the world’s toughest law attacking plastic pollution which threatens land and sea.

Throughout Kenya, plastic bags are found everywhere — on roofs, on walls and clogging drainage. Kenyans are estimated to use 24 million bags a month. “It is a toxin we must get rid of,” Judi Wakhungu, the country’s environment minister, told reporters. “It’s affecting our water. It’s affecting our livestock and, even worse, we are ingesting this as human beings.”

In Nairobi’s slaughterhouses, some cows destined for human consumption have had bags removed from their stomachs. “This is something we didn’t get 10 years ago but now it’s almost on a daily basis,” said county vet Mbuthi Kinyanjui as he watched men in bloodied white uniforms scoop sodden plastic bags from the stomachs of cow carcasses.

Plastic bags take between 500 to 1,000 years to break down.

Kenya’s law allows police to go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag but enforcement will initially be directed at manufacturers and suppliers.

More than 40 other countries have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.

What’s good for the turtle, however, is not necessarily a welcome idea for manufacturers who complain that some 176 companies with thousands of workers producing plastic bags will have to close. Kenya is a major exporter of the bags to the region.

“The knock-on effects will be very severe,” said Samuel Matonda of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. “It will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market – how will their customers carry their shopping home?”

Meanwhile, in Nairobi, many supermarkets have switched from plastic bags to reusable, cloth sacks, but a quick drive around Nairobi revealed that plastic bags are still in use. So far, there have been no reports of any enforcement actions.

Crisis erupts over police-linked killing of Kenyan human rights lawyer

 

Kenya protest

July 5, 2016 (GIN) – Four police officers have been arrested in the torture/murder of a noted Kenyan human rights lawyer and two other men.
The Law Society of Kenya called it “a dark day for the rule of law” and a countrywide boycott of the courts has been called.  The respected lawyer disappeared with his client and a taxi driver after filing a charge of police brutality. The officers are being held without bail while an investigation is underway.
Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda, and their driver disappeared on June 23 after making the court filing. Their bodies were found on June 30, floating in the Oldonyo Sabuk river. CapitalFM, a local media group, said the men had been tied up with ropes and their bodies mutilated.
A government pathologist said their deaths were the result of beatings with a blunt object and strangulation. The incident has outraged the legal community where the rise of police killings has been a matter of concern.
“These extrajudicial killings are a chilling reminder that the hard-won right to seek justice for human rights violations is under renewed attack,” said Muthoni Wanyeki from Amnesty International.
“Police are there to protect Kenyans and not to kill them,” said Yash Pal Ghai, director of the Katiba Institute, a Kenyan legal group promoting social transformation through the constitution.
This week, hundreds of Kenyans including lawyers, human rights activists and taxi drivers held a peaceful protest as lawyers began a week-long walkout that will paralyze court operations around the country.
The Department of Public Prosecutions issued a statement assuring the public and legal fraternity that any rogue elements in the department “do not represent what the National Police stands for.”
But activists replied that extra-judicial killings were creeping back, and the Inspector General of Police should “pack and leave if he cannot assure Kenyans of security.”
Mr. Kimani had been working at the International Justice Mission (IJM), a U.S.-based rights group, when he was killed. An online petition calling for justice for Kimani, his client, and their driver Joseph Muiruri had 24,594 signatures at press time. The petition can be found at www.IJM.org/JusticeinKenya
“In Kenya,” it reads in part, “it is far too easy for a corrupt or incompetent police officer to frame and imprison an innocent person, who must then wait in jail, often for years on end, for a chance to prove his or her innocence. This corrupt system has packed Kenyan prisons full of innocent men and women with no way out and no lawyer to fight for their release – and the police who abuse their power are not held accountable.
“Willie Kimani was working to protect the innocent from such abuse, and he was murdered while courageously pursuing that mission.”

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o takes on poaching

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o with elephants

“Poaching steals from us all.” That is the message Kenyan Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o brings to the Kenyan public in the newest awareness PSA from African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and WildAid.
The countrywide campaign also enlists the help of popular afro-pop band Sauti Sol and local radio personality Caroline Mutoko to bring attention to the natural and economic value of elephant conservation.
In a 2015 campaign survey of 2,000 Kenyans, 28 percent said poaching didn’t affect them, while 75 percent said losing elephants would matter to them a great deal. This campaign aims to bridge the gap and prove elephants’ intrinsic value to Kenya’s heritage, biodiversity and economy.  “If we lose our elephants and other wildlife to this threat, it will not be because we lacked the knowledge or tools to save them, but because we all failed to take ownership of our wildlife heritage. None of us can afford to be bystanders when so much is at stake,” AWF VP of Program Design and Government Relations Daudi Sumba said.