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Tea multinationals get notice to surrender title deeds

NEWS
By Nikko Tanui | October 3rd 2019

Governor Paul Chepkwony has issued an ultimatum to multinational tea companies in the county to surrender title deeds for their plantations.

James Finlay, Unilever Tea, George Williamson, and Sotik Highlands Tea are among the 10 multinational tea companies the county government has written to, staking a claim on the parcels of land.

The investors occupy an estimated 800,000 acres with tea bushes. The parcels of land were acquired during the pre-independence period.

According to a copy of the letter addressed to the management of James Finaly Company, Prof Chepkwony states that his administration wants to regularise all land held under leasehold interest by resurveying it to issue fresh leases to the firms.

"Kindly, but urgently surrender to my office all the title deeds for land held by your company in Kericho County. This should be done within 14 days,” read the letter signed by Chepkwony dated September 23 and addressed to firm's management.

The governor says after the expiry of the deadline on Sunday, his administration will evaluate the response by the companies and issue a directive on the way forward.

The plans by the county government is to issue the companies with fresh leases that do not exceed 99 years as prescribed by the Constitution.

Chepkwony explained that Article 65 of the Constitution expressly provides that a person who is not a citizen of Kenya can own land but only under leasehold interest for not more than 99 years.

The move comes months after a committee formed by National Land Commission to look into the historical land injustice ordered a fresh survey and audit to be undertaken over land allocated to the companies in Kericho and Bomet.

But in their defence, the multinational companies through the Kenya Tea Growers Association Chief Executive Officer Apollo Kiari said there was a court order issued by Justice Pauline Nyamweya stopped any interference with the leases.

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