Coca-Cola company sued for destroying ‘sacred tree’ planted by Raila in 2014

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The Coca-Cola Company has been sued by three activists from Homabay county, for allegedly destroying a “sacred” fig tree that was planted by ODM leader Raila Odinga at Posta Grounds in Homa Bay town in 2014.

The activists, Evance Oloo, Micheal Kojo, and Walter Opiyo have asked the court to compel the beverage-making company to facilitate Mr. Odinga to visit Homa Bay and plant another tree, locally referred to as Bongu, at the same spot where he had planted the one that was destroyed.

According to a report on Business Daily, a Toyota pickup from one of Coca Cola bottlers crushed the tree on March 25, 2017, while reversing near Bunge grounds, prompting the court suit.

ODM supporters, who used to water the plant every morning, demanded action against the driver after reporting the matter at Homa Bay police station under OB number 16/25/3/2017.

The case has been filed under a certificate of urgency before the Environment and Land Court in Migori County. The activists say a fig tree, under traditional beliefs, is handled with care.

Justice George Ongondo of the Environment and Land Court has scheduled the case for hearing from June 21, with the activists expected to file submissions during the hearing of the case.

Coca-Cola Company Limited, Kisii Bottlers, and Almasi Beverages have been listed as the first, second and third respondents respectively.

Almasi Beverages operated Kisii Bottlers, Mount Kenya Bottlers based in Nyeri and Rift Valley Bottlers in Uasin Gishu County before it was acquired by Coca-Cola Beverages Africa on June 12, 2019.

Coca-Cola is said to have made attempts to bring a replica of the tree which failed to impress some ODM supporters.

An assessment from Kenya Forest Services (KSF) in April 2017 estimated the cost of the tree to be about Sh68,000.

Mr Odinga planted the controversial fig tree on August 2, 2014 when he toured Homa Bay town for a political function and to usher in the devolved system of government.

Members of Bunge la Wenye Nchi, a group of local activists in Homa Bay believed the tree was meant to rescue Nyanza from political and economic woes.

In central Kenya, the fig tree or Mugumo tree (Ficus Sycomorus) is considered sacred as fear would always grip the whole community when it falls down or gets destroyed.

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