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Kakuzi moots committee to address human rights abuses

By Fredrick Obura | April 26th 2021
Lab technologist, Mary Wanza testing Avacado fruit (PHOTO: Courtesy)

Kakuzi is taking allegations into human rights abuse that has characterised its operations in the recent past with caution.

The firm’s Managing Director Chris Flowers says the board is working to establish a high-level Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee (IHRAC) whose role will be to provide independent advice to the board on matters relating to human rights and governance structures.

In October last year, 79 Kenyans sued Kakuzi parent company Camellia Plc in the United Kingdom (UK) for allegedly turning blind eye to systematic human rights abuse by Kakuzi Ltd employees in Kenya that include rape, killings, attacks, false imprisonment and mistreatment for 11 years.

The 79 victims include former employees of Kakuzi, women and girls who were raped by the company guards after being caught collecting wood on the firm’s land.

“The allegations were shocking to the Kakuzi fraternity and continue to be taken with the seriousness they deserve. Our board is already working to establish a high-level Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee whose role will be to provide independent advice on matters relating to human rights and governance structures,” said Flowers.

UK based Ethical Trading Initiative organisation (ETI) in its report has acknowledged the commitments Kakuzi has made on labour rights.

ETI, a global organisation working to define best practice in ethical trade, acknowledged marked progress in the alternative dispute resolution measures undertaken by Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed firm.

“We know how valuable the horticulture export sector is to Kenya and to those whose livelihoods depend on it. We hope that by addressing the legitimate concerns of workers, by building better relationships and stronger working practices, Kakuzi can go from strength to strength based on decent working conditions and a safe work environment. We commend those who have made this agreement possible and urge them to ensure continued progress and transparency for all concerned,” the ETI report said.

Established in 1998 and with head offices in the United Kingdom, ETI exists to improve working conditions in global supply chains by developing effective approaches to implementing the ETI Base Code of labour practice.

"We encourage ETI member companies that have a trading history with Kakuzi to maintain a constructive dialogue with the company and to work with others to ensure the independent validation of reported progress. In this way, the remedy can be assured, and trust can be rebuilt." The progress report stressed.

ETI member companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations work together to tackle the many complex questions about what steps companies should take to trade ethically and how to make a positive difference to workers' lives.

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