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Rights group calls for action on Kakuzi despite UK payout

News By Allan Mungai | February 15th 2021 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

The Kenya Human Rights Commission wants the Murang’a County Assembly to block any plans to renew the land leases held by Kakuzi until claims on historical land injustices are resolved.

Kakuzi’s parent company, Camellia Plc based in the UK, announced last week that it had agreed to pay Sh696 million to settle claims of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by employees in its Kenyan agricultural operation.

The firm's guards have been accused of committing atrocities ranging from killings, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.

But Kakuzi’s management in Kenya has denied these human rights abuses, insisting that no victims have filed complaints with them.

Camellia has offered a settlement that would see the company pay £4.6 million (Sh696 million) towards compensation for 85 claimants, as well as legal fees since the case was filed in London.

A statement from the company’s update on February 11 reads: “In January 2020, Camellia Plc announced that it and certain UK subsidiary companies faced legal claims in the UK based on allegations against two businesses in its African operations, namely Kakuzi in Kenya and EPM in Malawi. These claims have now been resolved at settlements costing up to £4.6m in relation to the Kenyan claims,and £2.3m (Sh348 million) in relation to the Malawian claims.”

In Kenya, a group of people who claimed to be among victims who have suffered abuses at the hands of the company's employees said there were still a number of issues, such as land dispossession, that were still unresolved.

The human rights group is demanding that Kakuzi allows the National Lands Commission to implement a February 2019 decision calling for the surrender of public utilities, including schools, markets, police stations, hospitals and public access roads to the national and county governments.

They said without a solution to their other claims, the compensation agreed on in the UK would be hollow since they would still be suffering abuses.

KHRC, which had accompanied about 15 people who it claimed were victims, also took offense at Kakuzi’s insistence that it did not know who the victims of the abuses were and was having difficulties holding the perpetrators accountable.

Acting Executive Director Davis Malombe said it was shocking that Camellia, and by extension Kakuzi, has failed to offer a public apology for the violations suffered by the communities and workers living in and around Kakuzi.

“An apology and guarantee for non-repetition are the bedrock of a compensation framework such as the one that Camellia has invoked,” Malombe said on Sunday.

The group further wants the company to stop giving conditions for the use of roads. They said despite Kakuzi ceding to some of the demands and surrendering three roads for motorable vehicle access by the communities against the six that communities had demanded, they were still giving conditions for their usage.

“The surrender comes with inconceivable conditions to the extent that Kakuzi retains the arbitrary self-imposed power to withhold access for maintenance of the roads and fielding of safety marshals to improve safety and security,” said KHRC.

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