Tea multinationals win against counties

Estates dating back to colonial days oppose NLC recommendations on land

In Summary

• 11 tea companies seek to quash NLC order giving counties a say in running of farms.

• Case has been set for April 29 for inter-parties hearing.

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony
UNTOUCHABLES: Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony
Image: FILE

The High Court has stopped Bomet and Kericho counties from implementing recommendations of the National Land Commission on multinational tea estates.

The case was filed by 11 tea companies from the Rift valley which sought to quash a decision by the commission giving authority to the counties to have a say in the running of the tea farms.

Through the Kenya Tea Growers Association, tea companies including James Finlays, Sotik Highlands, Tinderet Tea Estate, Nandi Tea Estates and Kaimosi Tea Estates want the court to stop implementation of the impugned NLC recommendations.

NLC gave county governments powers to, among other approvals, conduct surveys of the lands.

The commission in a gazette notice dated March 1 ordered that leases for such lands be withheld until an agreement is reached with the two counties and that the 999-year-old leases be converted to the constitutional requirement of 99 years.

“The county government and multinationals sign a memorandum of understanding for the multinationals to provide public utilities to the community,” the commission further said.

NLC further recommended that rates and rents of such lands be enhanced to benefit national and county governments.

But in the application before Justice P. Nyamweya, the companies claimed the decision by NLC offends the principles of natural justice as the commission neither afforded them a fair opportunity to be heard nor notified them of the claims by the counties.

The applicants pointed out that if the matter was not urgently heard, the NLC recommendations would be carried out and they would lose their properties thereby incurring irreparable loss and damage.

The multinationals said they contribute significantly to the Kenyan economy through international tea exports which is a major foreign exchange earner for the government and “all these contributions would be at risk if the NLC advice was to be implemented.”

The case has been set for April 29 for inter-parties hearing.

Kericho governor Paul Chepkwony and his Bomet counterpart Joyce Laboso have already commenced the process of repossessing the lands as they push for compensation from the British government over the atrocities meted on their people by colonialists.

The two are pursuing compensation from the British government on behalf of Kipsigis and Talai communities who were forced out of their land by the whites between 1920 and 1924.

In a recent meeting with MCAs attended by lawyer Kimutai Bosek representing the two counties, Laboso said they would soon dispatch surveyors to the farms to establish the exact acreage of the tea estates.

According to Bosek, the firms own up to 200, 000 hectares but insist it is 89, 000 hectares only.