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Kakuzi fights human rights abuse claims

By Fredrick Obura | October 12th 2020 at 14:42:03 GMT +0300

Kakuzi has distanced itself from reports of human rights abuse threatening to dent its image locally and across the globe

According to the reports, Camellia Plc (Kakuzi parent company) is accused of turning a blind eye to systematic human rights abuse by Kakuzi Limited employees that include rape, killings, attacks, false imprisonment, and mistreatment for 11 years.

A statement by the victims’ lawyer Leigh Day says Kakuzi security guards have been inflicting harm on locals surrounding its plantation that has avocados feeding the UK market.

The 79 victims include former employees of Kakuzi, and women and girls who were raped by the company guards after being caught collecting wood on the firm’s land. Some are said to have contracted HIV or became pregnant as a result of the rape. The firm will be facing 10 women and girls, including two who are under age. In investigations spanning three years, Kakuzi appeared to be closely monitored and controlled by its parent company Camellia.

On Monday, Kakuzi denied the claims saying in a statement that it does not condone any criminal activities by any of its employees. “And to this end, we have requested the office of the director of the prosecution to investigate the allegations of criminality and take action in accordance with the law,” reads a statement from Kakuzi.

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The firm says that the Leigh Day, a law firm in the United Kingdom, wrote to it late last year stating that they intended to take Kakuzi to court in UK over accusations of serious criminal acts committed against anonymous claimants

Kakuzi claims that in July 2020 Leigh Day dropped the Court claims. “Few of these accusations have ever been reported to us or the Kenyan authorities.” It said adding that in the case of the tragic death of the young man highlighted in the press the matter was reported and investigations are ongoing. “Kakuzi has settled with deceased legal representatives as appointed by the Kenyan courts on the civil matter.”

The 79 victims in the case include former employees of Kakuzi, and women and girls who were raped by the company guards after being caught collecting wood on the firm’s land. Some are said to have contracted HIV or became pregnant as a result of the rape. The firm will be facing 10 women and girls, including two who are under age. In investigations spanning three years, Kakuzi appeared to be closely monitored and controlled by its parent company Camellia.

“The attacks are said to have been part of a pattern of systemic violence and intimidation of villagers by Kakuzi guards over many years, and which have been documented by local human rights organisations,” s statement sent yesterday read in part.

It is claimed that a young man was clobbered to death by Kakuzi’s security guards in May 2018 for allegedly stealing avocados.

Other victims include a journalist and a cameraman who were maimed by the guards while reporting a protest led by students of Gitutu Secondary School in 2016. At the same time, 34 men and women involved in a protest on September 2, 2014, faced the wrath of Kakuzi guards.

Carmellia had initially proposed to settle the dispute out of court. It, however, demanded that the victims’ names should be revealed.

According to a statement sent to newsrooms, the law firm also demanded that the victims should withdraw their cases against it and use Kenyan lawyers paid for by Kakuzi to negotiate for compensation.

However, those either maimed or families of those who were killed fear that the guards will revenge. The investigations were conducted with the help of Kenya Human Rights Commission and SOMO.

KHRC representative Mary Mombo said Kakuzi workers and communities surrounding the firm have persevered terror for the last 50 years. The firm is said to have been a beneficiary of thousands of acres taken away by colonial masters in Murang’a County. “Camellia’s proposal of an ‘alternative dispute resolution’ on condition that victims abandon their legal claim in the UK appears to be a glaring attempt to undermine the victims’ access to remedy and avoid liability for the abuses allegedly committed by its subsidiary.

Camellia should undertake to prevent further abuses from occurring while letting justice in the UK case run its course,” Mombo said, adding that the guards had become the law, prosecutors, judges, and the jury.

She said: “The company continues to make a complete mockery of what constitutes responsible business conduct even when it claims to contribute to advancing social practices in Kenya. It is baffling how Kakuzi behaves as if it is a law unto itself.”

The case lodged at the High Court is against three British companies: Camellia Plc, Linton Park Plc, and Robertson Bois Dickson Anderson Limited.”

Additional Reporting by Kamau Muthoni


Kakuzi Leigh Day
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