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More victims of torture at Kakuzi firm speak out

By Wangari Njuguna
Monday, October 19th, 2020
Teresia Wanjiku a former employee of Kakuzi Limited. She claims she was involved in an accident while in the line of duty and was sacked without compensation. Photo/PD/Wangari Njuguna
In summary
    • More victims of torture at Kakuzi Company claim the firm  condones human right violations by its guards.
    • Last week, a UK newspaper published a story on claims of torture at the firm.
    • UK’S supermarket chain, Tesco dropped it from its list of Avocado suppliers after the reports emerged.

More people have come out to speak of the harrowing experiences at the Kakuzi Company premises, days after media reports on how the firm has been harassing and assaulting residents emerged.

Most of the victims are former employees and residents who live near the firm.

Last week, People Daily paid a visit to some of the victims who live in the remote Kinyangi village in Gatanga. 

Kennedy Musyoka bears a huge scar on his left hand, which he claims was a result of an attack by  one of the  guard at the company.

He alleges that he was slashed on the hand after he was found cutting grass for his livestock near the company’s forest yard in February this year. 

He said four guards who are known to him told him to get into the farm to get better fodder, but he declined as he suspected they were up to no good. 

“They then started beating me and I raised alarm alerting the neighbours.

Three guards ran away but one who was armed with a panga slashed me on the hand,” he said.

He said this has affected his life, as he cannot do heavy tasks he used to do before. 

“I cannot go out looking for menial jobs because my hand is too weak,” he said. 

The 29-year-old said he is a musician and even playing guitar has become an uphill task. 

Terresia Wanjiku painfully remembers the year 2007 when she was involved in an accident within the farm. 

Wanjiku had been deployed to work the forest yard where they used to collect tree barks. 

She said a tractor ran over a trunk of tree, which hit her on the leg, fracturing the bone. 

She catered for her medical expenses and three months later she was dismissed from work with no explanation given. 

“I was told I could no longer work there and I was never compensated for the injuries,” she said. 

To date, she said her leg aches and she has been in and out of hospital looking for a solution. 

Nzuki Maingi, who was a security guard said he fell in a ditch and sustained a spinal injury during a patrol.

After spending a couple months in hospital, he was hoping to get his job back, but to his surprise, he was sacked. 

He begged to get his job back but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he was also not compensated. 

Compensation

“Life became difficult for me and my family and we have to rely on casual jobs to put food on the table,” he said. 

He feels the company ought to have considered his seven years of service and also compensated him for the injury he sustained while on duty. 

 A 14-year-old girl, the latest victim of the harassment by the company’s guards was defiled, infected with a sexually transmitted disease and impregnated. 

The girl’s mother claims that about one month ago, the minor had gone to fetch firewood in a nearby forest when she bumped into a guard who defiled her. 

The mother said after reporting the matter, an identification parade was done and the girl pointed out the suspect who was only held at the police cells for few days before being released. 

“The girl was taken to a children’s home where I was told she will be staying for a while,” said the mother. 

The residents here feel that the company’s management has compromised the police because they don’t get any assistance when they go to report assault. 

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) had a meeting with the victims and  recorded their cases, pledging to push for justice for them. 

David Malombe the KHRC deputy director said the company has not been willing to sort out these issues. 

Condone violations

“We are going to pursue these cases and ensure the victims get justice for what was done for them,” he said. 

He has proposed for more sanctions on the company by international firms, which it trades with until it streamlines its operations. 

The company has, however, denied the claims. The corporate affairs manager Wilson Opiyo said it does not condoned human rights violation in its operations. 

Opiyo, however, admitted that the  cases of torture and harassment used to be there in the past but they have put in mechanism to sort out disputes when they arise. 

He said they have been working with the human rights commission and the Trading Ethics Initiative and they  drew a work plans on how to deal with any arising issues. 

He said the company was willing to solve the cases with the victims if they are willing to come out. 

Last week,  Britain’s Sunday Times published a story on the claims of torture at Kakuzi Company, which include the battering of a 28-year-old man to death over allegedly stealing avocados.

 This lead to the UK’s supermarket chain Tesco dropping it from its list of avocado suppliers.

Kakuzi operates a 54 square mile plantation in Murang’a County, employing an estimated 3,000 persons and is a major grower of avocados, macadamia nuts and pineapples.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed firm saw the backlash from the allegations drive down its share price to Sh380 on Monday’s trading’s session from Friday’s close.

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