Early this year, I received a chilling phone call from Joyce Wanjiru the CEO of Petco Kenya. She demanded that we pull down a tweet in which we indicated that Coca-Cola and other consumer brands ‘employs’ children to recover PET waste at dumpsites. Joyce demanded that we pull down the tweet or unspecified actions including legal actions would be taken against us. Before she called us, she had called other advocacy groups that had retweeted our post and delivered the same threats. Unfortunately, these groups gave in to this blackmail from the industry.
This is not the first time these threats from the industry have been made on us. In 2017 just before the ban of plastic bags, I was lured to a building in Nairobi in the name of exploring a partnership and asked by someone working as a proxy for the industry to ‘come slow’ on the issue of plastic bags.
There have been other threats from others. In a WhatsApp group created by Kenya Association of Manufacturers to discuss how Kenya can manage PET Waste sustainably, a senior manager at Bidco made this comment, “Kindly make an appointment with senior leadership of Kenya Association of Manufacturers for your own good.’
I’m aware of other veiled threats made by Kenya Association of Manufacturers leadership to people who are associated with our work.
Let me make this clear. We are not afraid of putting a spotlight on the issue of waste in Kenya. This problem is real. Plastic is not the only problem we are interested in. Single-use glass is also a problem. Children working at dumpsites is a problem. Installation of dumpsites in poor communities is also a problem. And others…
Everyone who is associated with Clean Up Kenya has made a lifetime commitment to work towards ensuring Kenya is clean, safe and healthy as advanced in Chapter 42 of the constitution of Kenya.
We want to work with the industry and government to the realization of this right. But we want to do so in honest engagement. We fully support what National Environment Management Authority is doing to address this problem and we hope the agency can receive more support especially funding and political goodwill from the government to fulfill its mandate.
I have written to Phyllis Wakiaga the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Association Manufacturers to discuss this issue and instead, she sent me junior officers. I have been to KAM several times and even met her in the lift and tried to talk to her and she ignored me just like the industry ignores the problem of #ChildLabor, #CorporateSlavery, #CorporateRacism, and exploitation of vulnerable children and women in recycling in Kenya.
PS: Don’t forget Clean Up Kenya is not funded by anyone. We run this on personal funds but collaborate with others on projects. Our vision has always been for the movement to be adopted by a group of corporates including Kenya Association of Manufacturers and even Coca-Cola. We think it’s a patriotic obligation of Kenyan corporates to ensure waste management in Kenya is fixed.
ABOUT CLEAN UP KENYA
Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the defacto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilising for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, greenwashing NGOs and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Betterman Simidi Musasia
Founder & Patron, Clean Up Kenya
Betterman is a sustainable public sanitation advocate and a pollution control evangelist. In 2015, after becoming extremely tired of seeing all the trash in Kenyan neighborhoods and hearing the authorities fake promises to clear the mess, he sold his trucking business to establish Clean Up Kenya. Today, the organization is a leading national sustainable public sanitation advocacy brand. In September 2020, he stepped down as Clean Up Kenya Chief Executive Officer and currently serves as Founder and Patron.