Activists warn firms violating human rights

They will expose them to international buyers

In Summary

• KHRC audit revealed massive oppression at Kakuzi fruit processing company

• Former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere asks President Kenyatta to force all foreign companies uphold human rights.

A group of activists at Kinyangi market in Gtanga.
A group of activists at Kinyangi market in Gtanga.

Human rights activists have vowed to bar companies that exploit workers and surrounding communities from accessing international markets.

Kenya Human Rights Commission executive director George Kegoro said some companies exporting local products use unscrupulous means to acquire a clean bill of health from international buyers.

Kegoro cited Kakuzi fruits processing company which he said had received the Rainforest Alliance certification to sell avocados internationally without disclosing the problems it has been exposing residents to.

KHRC, he said, hired an independent auditor from Costa Rica who revealed massive oppression at the company and the certificate was revoked.

Kegoro said the lobby group took the action following an outcry by residents who on numerous occasions decried exploitation by the company.

The activist spoke at a meeting organised by KHRC at Kinyangi market in Gatanga, Murang'a.

 “The plan is to ensure companies follow the right procedure when producing their products and honour human rights,” he said.

He said residents won after the National Land Commission directed that all public amenities within the company’s farm be issued with titles.

They include Kinyangi, Kakuzi and Kitito primary schools, Kitito secondary school, Kinyangi health centre, Kituamba police station and Kimiriri police patrol base.

Kinyangi water point, Kituamba police station water pump,Kitito and Kituamba water supplies will also be given titles. The others are Kinyangi, Kitito and Kituamba trading centres, Kinyangi chief’s office, Kinyangi assistant county commissioner’s complex and Kitito chief’s camp.

The titles will avert incidents of conflict between locals and the company. In 2016 protests turned violent as locals demonstrated against the firm’s decision to reclaim land it had given to Kitito secondary school, Kegoro said.

Swaleh Githinji, a resident, demanded a public apology from the company for the suffering imposed upon them.

Githinji said evidence tabled before the NLC indicates about 50,000 acres occupied by the company belonged to their forefathers.

“They burnt down their properties, killed their men and pushed them to Kakuzi hills which are barren,” Githinji said.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome promised free legal services to locals as they push for the title deeds.

“Should the company rush to court, I am a certified lawyer and will represent you,” she said.

She women and children are sexually molested as they pass through bushy pathways following the closure of roads in the area.

She castigated the local administration for attempting to block the meeting saying locals have a right to assemble.

Former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to force all foreign companies uphold human rights.

“More than 50 years after Kenyans got their freedom, some Kenyans are still living in the jungle and the government should have ensured land that was taken away from them is reverted,” he said.

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