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DPP takes up rights abuse claims case against Kakuzi

By Kamau Muthoni | October 15th 2020 at 00:10:00 GMT +0300

Avocados being prepared for export. [Courtesy]

79 Kenyans have dragged the company to court in the United Kingdom, seeking compensation for alleged abuse by the firm’s guards.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji is looking into allegations of human rights abuses at Kakuzi Ltd, which have since spilled over into a UK court.

Haji’s office yesterday said the agricultural firm wrote to him on September 17, and he has since referred the matter to Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai for action.

The DPP had in March this year called an inquest into the killing of a 28-year-old man said to have been beaten to death by guards at the agricultural and manufacturing firm.

“Kakuzi wrote to us about some alleged violation of human rights and wanted us to investigate them and we wrote to the IG (inspector general) on 17th September or thereabout. There was someone who was killed and we directed an inquest be done around March,” said Haji.

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In another case now before a UK court, a teenage girl claims she was raped by Kakuzi guards in 2015. She says the rape took away her dream to become a nun after she gave birth in February 2016.

She claimed the guards attacked her while in the company of her friends as they collected firewood inside Kakuzi’s expansive property in Murang’a County.

She is among 79 Kenyans who have dragged Camellia PC, Kakuzi’s parent company, to court in the UK, seeking compensation for alleged abuse by the firm’s guards.

Her lawyer Leigh Day in the court papers filed in the UK argues that Kakuzi, its employees and its parent company Camellia PLC are liable for the abuse.

Mr Day accuses Camellia and Kakuzi of profiteering from rape, deaths and assault committed by its employees in Kenya.

“The rape was the first time that the second claimant had sexual intercourse. Before she was raped, she planned to be a nun,” court papers filed before the High Court in the UK read in part.

Following an article on the case, which first appeared in the UK’s Sunday Times under the headline “Rape, beatings and death’ at Kakuzi,” Kakuzi ran an advert in local dailies accusing the victims of soiling its reputation.

Brokered deal

While denying the allegations, Kakuzi said Day had dropped the case two months earlier.

Kakuzi at the same time distanced itself from Camellia, saying it was owned by at least 1,300 Kenyans, who were the majority shareholders.

“… As far as we know, few of these accusations have never been reported to Kakuzi or Kenyan authorities. The claims having been made anonymously have hindered any investigations to get justice for those who seek it,” Kakuzi replied.

“It has now become clear that the strategy is instead to run a smear campaign against Kakuzi and some of its customers.”

The firm, which supplies several UK retailers with avocados, said the only way to deal with the alleged atrocities is by investigating its employees, cooperating with authorities and making amends where it can. “That is the proper way of dealing with allegations,” it wrote.

It appears Kakuzi had brokered a deal with lawyer Day to compensate the victims but on condition that they reveal their names.

Most of the complainants tell of horrifying tales in the hands of the guards, claiming they were beaten up before being detained for more than 24 hours at Makuyu Police Station. They were then charged with destroying the company’s property.

In the case of the 28-year-old man allegedly clobbered to death, he is said to have been trespassing through Kakuzi when he was accosted by the guards, who accused him of stealing avocados.

He was later taken to Makuyu Police Station, but officers at the station refused to book him and ordered he be taken for treatment at Makuyu Health Centre.

He was transferred to Maragua Level Four Hospital and finally Kenyatta National Hospital where he died two days later.

Kakuzi claims the matter was reported to relevant authorities. Two years after the death, the firm claims investigations are ongoing and that it compensated the family.

“Kakuzi has settled with the deceased’s legal representative as appointed by Kenyan courts on the civil matter,” said the firm.

Lawyer Day says in court papers, some Kakuzi’s employees have also fallen victim of the brutal attacks by their colleagues.

The 55th claimant was a guard with the firm.

He narrated that in February 2018, he was on patrol on the expansive property with another colleague when they were stopped by a different set of guards.

Efforts to convince their tormentors that they were also Kakuzi employees and even showing them their staff badges did not help.

 

They were treated at the firm’s infirmary.

“He was punched in the left eye and as a result, it was swollen and expelled pus for about four to five days after the incident. It took about a month to heal completely.

The swelling had reduced, but there was still blood in his eye, and his vision was blurred. He still experiences discomfort in bright light,” says Day in court papers on the incident

Another claimant is a 64-year-old woman, who says she was raped and infected with HIV by a guard after she was found collecting firewood.

At least 10 women and girls allege they were abused by guards and are yet to get justice.


Kakuzi United Kingdom DPP
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