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A land lease shrouded in mystery

Updated Sunday, April 18th 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3
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By Vitalis Kimutai

The land lease for multinational tea companies operating in the South Rift has been shrouded in mystery.

While the initial lease is said to have been 99 years, the same is said to have been revised upward to 999 years without consultation with or consent from the residents.

James Finlays Tea Kenya, Unilever (to be renamed Brooke Bond), George Williamsons, Lelsa and Sotik Tea are some of the multinational companies with huge chunks of tea estates.

Local leaders have recently demanded that the ownership should revert to the local community and the tea estates be managed by the local authorities on behalf of the residents. Debate has been raging over the years on the circumstances scrounging take-over of the land by white settlers.

Forcibly taken

Mama Nora Taprandich, 83, in her shamba at Chepchabas. Photo: Vitalis Kimutai/Standard

"The land was leased out to settlers in the pretext that it was idle while in reality the residents had livestock and crops on it," Peter Cheruiyot, the chairman Kaptuigeny/Chepchabas Welfare Society, said.

Most of the land is said to have been forcibly taken away, from the residents without due regard to human rights issues and the prevailing laws at the time.

The Devonshire White Paper of 1923 clearly states conditions governing land tenure in the colony.

It states that whenever there were conflicts of interests on land use, the interests of the natives were to come before those of white settlers.

The post-independence Sessional Paper No 10 stressed prioritisation of the economic resources/chances for the locals.

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