Lawmakers oppose renewal of multinational firms’ leases
A section of senators from the Rift Valley region have threatened to block the renewal of leases for huge tracts of agricultural land owned by wealthy elite and multinationals.
The lawmakers claim that leases of tea farms owned either by individuals or multinational companies in the counties of Kericho, Nandi and Bomet are being renewed without the involvement of the national or county governments.
They seek to know what happened to the 999 -years leases that have been committed to 99- years’ leases after the passage of the 2010 Constitution and the role of the National Land Commission in renewing the leases.
“Since the Constitution 2010, the National Land Commission, the county government and national governments have been silent and they have not been telling Kenyans what happened with 999-years leases that were committed to 99 years lease as per the 2010 Constitution,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.
“There is a lot of secrecy in the whole issue. We are aware that these multinationals have very huge control of tracts of land and one day they can wake up and change ownership without informing the employees of the county government and without the role of National Land Commission (NLC),” he added.
The legislators singled out James Finlay, Unilever and George Williamson tea companies which own huge parcels of land in the three counties.
“I hope that these issues of leases will be looked at, whether it is sisal leasing, the flower farms, and the change of ownership. Who will really own them? Cherargei posed.
“That should be the question. Even across the county, who are these leasing land? If this issue of land ownership and land leasing is not well coordinated I can assure you that it will be a problem in this country,” he said.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot sought to know the reasons behind the sale of the expansive Lemotit Flower Farm in Londiani, Kericho county by James Finlay Kenya Company Ltd.
In a question to the Senate Committee on Land, Environment and Natural Resources, Cheruiyot wants Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to disclose whether the County Government of Kericho was consulted during the disposal of the land which is on a 99-year leasehold.
“Give the name of the individual or the company that has bought the said farm and state the use of the land that is intended to be put into.” Cheruiyot’s statement read in part.
It adds: “Inform the Senate whether there is an intended sale of Unilever Tea Kenya Limited (UTKL) businesses in Kericho and Bomet counties. Besides, State the compensation, the two farms will grant their employees who will be rendered jobless by the sale of the said farms.”
Kericho lawmaker also wants the Ministry of Lands to re-survey land held by multinationals in Kericho and Bomet counties to establish the actual acreage of land hosting all multinationals in the two counties.
Sale of land
“State the policy and mitigative measures, if any, to be put in place to curb the sale of land under the custody of multinationals without the involvement of the National or County governments,” the statement concludes.
Bomet Senator Christopher Lagat regretted that the issue of land leasing has affected Kericho, Bomet and Nandi and had become a thorn in the flesh of the residents.
Lagat demanded to know the individuals and companies behind the renewed leases and whether the revaluation of the land and rates were considered.
He claimed powerful individuals and multinational companies leased the particular land without public participation by the communities surrounding those particular places.