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Kakuzi trying to cow us into silence, says rights lobby

Kenya Human Rights Commission says the company has to pay for the violations it is accused of.

In Summary

• KHRC and Kakuzi PLC have been engaged in legal feuds spanning over 17 years over land issues and allegations that the firm has been violating the rights of members of the public.

• The feuds saw KHRC partner with a UK-based law firm Leigh Day to sue Kakuzi’s parent company Camellia PLC at a London court over the alleged abuses. 

Teresia Wanjiku narrates how Kakuzi fired her after she sustained injuries at work.
Teresia Wanjiku narrates how Kakuzi fired her after she sustained injuries at work.
Image: Alice Waithera

Kakuzi is employing scare tactics to silence the local community and watchdogs from highlighting its human rights violations, a lobby has said.

Kenya Human Rights Commission acting executive director Davis Malombe on Monday told the Star that the company was out to intimidate and silence those highlighting its alleged indiscretions and misdoings to the local community.

KHRC and Kakuzi PLC have been engaged in legal feuds spanning over 17 years over land issues and allegations that the firm has been violating the rights of members of the public.

The feuds saw KHRC partner with a UK-based law firm Leigh Day to sue Kakuzi’s parent company Camellia PLC at a London court over the alleged abuses. 

The parent company entered an out-of-court settlement on February 11, promising to spend up to Sh645 million in settling individual claims and legal fees related to the human rights abuses committed by Kakuzi security guards. The London suit had 85 claimants who lived around Kakuzi.

The lobby then issued a statement on February 14, saying the compensation was a drop in the ocean relative to the magnitude of the alleged rights violations and the profits the company has extracted.

The company then sued KHRC, demanding that it withdraw the claims and apologise. But the lobby now complains that the company has been trying to intimidate it into submission so that it is not held to account.

“They will not succeed. Let Kakuzi know that we are used to such scare tactics and we have been engaged in even bigger battles,” Malombe told the Star.

“This is how corporate impunity thrives in this country. They want to use their vast resources to intimidate any voice of objection highlighting their grave violations. Kakuzi must know we are prepared to take the fight even further, and we have nothing to lose.”

Efforts to obtain comments from Kakuzi were futile as they did not respond to calls.

The commission on Sunday lobbied the UK market to sustain a boycott of Kakuzi’s products. Starving Kakuzi of the lucrative UK market is meant to compel the firm to change its poor human rights record.

The efforts are intended to cut off its revenue flow until it addresses all the human rights concerns against it. The lobby says it will also engage other players that the firm depends on to broaden the boycott “until there is a demonstrable change in attitude and behaviour on the part of Kakuzi”.

It also called on the National Land Commission to implement the decision it had made against the company to surrender a portion of the land to the local community. 

Malombe said the violations that Kakuzi is accused of "are even worse and they must pay for it".