How The Judiciary Can Lead the Charge in Reversing the Negative Effects of Climate Change.

In 2017, Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled that Polling Sta­tion results were final. They can­not be adjust­ed at a lat­er stage. This land­mark rul­ing guid­ed the way the 2022 elec­tion results were han­dled. This is just one illus­tra­tion of how instru­men­tal the Judi­cia­ry can be in entrench­ing bind­ing ground rules for crit­i­cal mat­ters in a country.

How­ev­er, the Judi­cia­ry can­not act on its own voli­tion. It only deliv­ers rul­ings when peti­tion cas­es are pre­sent­ed before it, and water­tight at that. As such, ordi­nary cit­i­zens can deploy the Judiciary’s immense pow­er for the good of a country.

Indeed, the Judiciary’s mam­moth pow­er was spot­light­ed last week dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion­ary 3rd Region­al Sym­po­sium on Green­ing Judi­cia­ries in Africa, which took place in Nairobi.

Held against the back­drop of severe famine in the Horn Africa, this Symposium’s theme was quite rel­e­vant, “Strength­en­ing the Role of Judi­cia­ries in address­ing cli­mate change in Africa.” The Judi­cia­ry is indeed unique­ly equipped to tack­le Cli­mate Change issues deci­sive­ly. It can do so through a vari­ety of inter­ven­tions that were spot­light­ed in the Symposium.

First­ly, pol­luters must be held account­able. Thank­ful­ly, a strong prece­dent was set in Mombasa’s Envi­ron­ment and Lands Court. In July 2020, Envi­ron­ment and Lands Court Judge Ann Omo­lo award­ed over 3,000 res­i­dents of Owino Uhu­ru Sh1.3 bil­lion for deaths, sick­ness and dam­ages caused by emis­sions from a lead-smelt­ing fac­to­ry. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, affect­ed res­i­dents are yet to receive this money.

This brings me to the sec­ond inter­ven­tion that must be enforced. The recent­ly con­clud­ed Sym­po­sium assert­ed the need for guide­lines to enforce court orders. In order to uphold pub­lic con­fi­dence in the judi­cial process, court orders must be obeyed to the let­ter, and by every­one regard­less of their sta­tion in soci­ety. That must hap­pen speed­i­ly because jus­tice delayed is jus­tice denied.

As a case in point, let’s revis­it the trag­ic sce­nario in Marsabit back in mid-Jan­u­ary. Heavy rains swept away over 1,500 sheep and goats leav­ing great loss in their trail. As much as the floods were an act of nature, their impact could have been dras­ti­cal­ly reduced through bet­ter flood mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures. In these cir­cum­stances, who, accord­ing to the law, is respon­si­ble for this death and destruc­tion? What legal steps can a cit­i­zen take to ensure that those respon­si­ble com­pen­sate them? Who should fund this legal process if vic­tims are unable to do so? Cit­i­zens must demand answers to these ques­tions because they touch on their well­be­ing and livelihoods.

Indeed, cit­i­zens have a soci­etal oblig­a­tion to engage the Judi­cia­ry in tack­ling the envi­ron­men­tal and social chal­lenges of our times. Doing so will result in replen­ish­ment, inclu­siv­i­ty and con­ti­nu­ity. I dare say that it is large­ly because we are not tak­ing our social respon­si­bil­i­ty seri­ous­ly that our envi­ron­ment expe­ri­ences deple­tion, not replen­ish­ment. The Judi­cia­ry can halt this, but only if we engage it.

Indeed, crit­i­cal envi­ron­men­tal rights are being vio­lat­ed every day. Yet the Unit­ed Nations makes it clear that every human being should enjoy the uni­ver­sal right to a clean, healthy, and sus­tain­able envi­ron­ment. This right is also enshrined in our con­sti­tu­tion, which states in Sec­tion 42 that every per­son has the right to a clean and healthy environment.

As such, no Kenyan should set­tle for any­thing less than this. If the envi­ron­ment in your res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood or work­place isn’t clean, healthy and sus­tain­able, some­one is ter­ri­bly vio­lat­ing your right. It is your civic duty to ensure that the vio­la­tion stops immediately.

Final­ly, I sug­gest Kenya’s par­lia­ment must act speed­i­ly to devel­op pro­gres­sive poli­cies and laws that secure a clean and healthy envi­ron­ment. We also need poli­cies and laws that clear­ly appor­tion cul­pa­bil­i­ty for the pre­ventable effects of cli­mate change. For instance, if ear­ly warn­ing sys­tems fore­warn that rains will fail, why should we stand by idly as famine rages hav­oc? I sug­gest that a new enti­ty to stan­dard­ize soci­etal oblig­a­tion be held duly respon­si­ble for that. And the Judi­cia­ry must step in to affirm the cit­i­zens’ right. Tufu­ate she­ria! Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

It Is Time To Return To The Basics of Our Nationhood

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