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Kakuzi now clears air on huge payout to victims

NEWS
By Kamau Muthoni | February 14th 2021

KHRC acting executive Director Davis Malombe (left), Programs Manager at  Commission Mary Kombo (centre) and Swalehe Githinji from Ndula resource centre.[Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Kakuzi Limited says it still does not know anyone who was abused in its farm although its parent company has compensated victims.

Although Camellia PLC, its parent company, announced last Thursday that it had paid Sh696 million to victims as compensation, Kakuzi asserted that those who were allegedly maimed or raped, are strangers.

Kakuzi, in a paid-up advert in Kenyan dailies, said it was dropped from the cases filed in the United Kingdom.

However, the firm said it is working with the local authorities to investigate any claims of human rights abuses.

“It was announced in London that claims concerning Camellia PLC, in relation to Kakuzi PLC operations have been resolved. As reported previously, Kakuzi was dropped as a party to the UK proceedings in July 2020. Kakuzi still does not know the identities of the claimants, making it difficult to hold any individual accountable,” the statement read in part.

Kakuzi sought to distance itself from the case despite its farms being the heart of horrifying accounts of abuses in the hands of its own guards.

“Although not a party to the litigation or the settlement, Kakuzi will be putting in place certain measures for the benefit of the communities on and around the properties,” the statement said.

Camellia bought a 50.7 per cent stake in Kakuzi in the mid-1990s but it is run by its own Board of Directors on behalf of its 1,300 mostly Kenyan shareholders.

Victims narrated how they were abused inside the expansive farm in Murang’a County where it grows blue gum trees and Hass Avocadoes when they were either fetching firewood or passing through ‘short cut roads’.

Kakuzi now says it will construct three more private roads through its property and hire female marshals from the community to oversee the use of its private roads and footpaths by the public.

It appeared that Kakuzi had brokered a deal with Leigh Day law firm to compensate the victims but on condition that they reveal their names. The negotiations hit a dead end, with each trading blame.

Leigh Day asserts that Kakuzi wanted to cook the cake and eat it by pressing that it should appoint lawyers in Kenya to compensate the victims.

Nearly all those who have pursued Kakuzi reveal horrifying tales of being beaten up, detained for more than 24 hours in Makuyu Police Station and charged with destroying the company’s property.

Victim killed

A 28-year-old man was clobbered to death at the farm. The deceased’s father is the 54th claimant in the case.

Kakuzi’s employees are also victims of what Leigh Day terms persistent atrocities that have been ignored.

The 55th claimant was a guard with the firm. He narrated that in February 2018, he was on a motorbike with a colleague patrolling the property when they were stopped by a different set of guards. Efforts to inform their tormentors that they were also Kakuzi employees and showing them their staff badges did not help.

He was beaten and sustained severe injuries. Their supervisor, a Mr Simiyu, came to his rescue. He was taken to the firm’s ‘base’ and treated.

His colleagues and another supervisor named Major accused him of trespass and riding a motorbike without a gate pass. He, too, was taken to Makuyu Police Station but was released without any charge being preferred against him.

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

At least 10 women and girls allege that the guards abused them and they are yet to find justice.

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