Post-mortem: Activist in tea firms sexual abuse case died by suicide

Dr Godfrey Onyango

Dr Godfrey Onyango, the chairman of Justice and Environment Foundation, was found dead at his home in Nakuru County on March 24, 2023.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Activist Godfrey Onyango, a key figure in the sexual abuse case against managers and supervisors at two tea multinationals in the South Rift region, took his own life, a post-mortem has revealed.

The post-mortem was done on Monday, March 27, 2023, three days after Dr Onyango was found dead at his home in Lanet, Nakuru County.

The examination by Government Pathologist Titus Ngulungu found that the activist died from asphyxiation, caused by a sliding noose neck compression. His family witnessed the procedure.

Onyango was involved in the petition by current and former workers of Ekaterra (formerly Unilever) and James Finlay operating in Bomet and Kericho counties. He was pushing for the two companies to admit liability for exposing the workers to sexual exploitation by managers and supervisors.

The activist, who leaves behind a widow and three children, was actively involved in human rights and environmental issues, particularly in the workplace, which made him come in contact with victims of sexual exploitation in the companies.

On Monday, March 20, he called the Nation and requested not to be named in a series of publications on sexual exploitation and harsh working conditions in the tea industry.

At least 50 current and former workers of the two companies have, through Kericho lawyer Gilbert Kemboi of Kemboi Chambers Advocates, written demand notices to the multinationals, demanding that they admit liability or be sued for compensation for violation of the workers' basic rights.

An exposé by the BBC on February 20 revealed that contractors, managers, and supervisors were secretly recorded preying on female workers in exchange for keeping their jobs or being assigned lighter duties.