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Resident wants legality of land leases to tea firms to be investigated

Business

 Workers plucking tea at an estate in Bomet County. [File, Standard]

A resident has filed a petition at the County Assembly of Bomet seeking a probe into the legality of the lease held by multinational tea companies operating in the county,

In a fresh push to have the lands reverted to local communities, Henry Belsoi, a resident of Chesoen in Bomet Central said the leases should have ended after the declaration of independence in 1963.

Appearing before the County Assembly's committee on petitions, Belsoi argued that the companies were operating illegally and draining local resources back to their foreign countries.

He said the companies had converted the leases into full ownership saying the recent sale of part of the land under Unilever company to Kericho County for the development of a water reservoir was wrong.

“The companies have assumed full ownership and they should be stopped sooner than later. It is the county assembly that will pass a resolution and recommendation on that,” Belsoi told the sitting chaired by Singorwet MCA Josphat Kipkirui.

He further argued that the companies should be pressed for equal sharing of resources of the tea business because of the land they are occupying.

Belsoi said the companies are not being sincere and transparent with the returns they are making from the tea business and should be forced to share the income with local county governments.

The companies, he said, have repeatedly reported losses and he suspects it could be a scheme to avoid accountability.

“To ensure a win-win situation, the companies should share their return on investment from the tea business with us through our county administrations,” he said.

He questioned the recent change of owners of some of the tea companies, saying it was suspect.

“After members of communities that are aggrieved raised concerns, we saw the change of ownership and we think that is wrong as they are only avoiding the reality,” he added.

Belsoi demanded the National Land Commission be compelled to start the process of resurveying all the lands under the tea companies.

He said there are reasons to doubt the acreage being declared by the companies.

The Committee chairman said his team will move with speed in executing the petition.

“We have agreed and we have given ourselves July as the deadline for the petition,” said Kirui, adding that the issue of land ownership should be put to rest.

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