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Relief in tussle over Del Monte land

By Oliver Musembi
Sunday, January 24th, 2021
Philip Kamau, the chairman of Kandara Residents Association addresses journalists in Thika accompanied by his members.
In summary

A long standing dispute over land between Del Monte Ltd and Kandara Residents Association may soon come to an end following a government intervention.

A meeting of the association's representatives in Thika was told on Saturday that plans are underway to settle 5,000 families which have been fighting for a stake of the huge chunk of land part of which Del Monte grows pineapples.

The land that straddles Kiambu and Murang'a counties and measuring about 33,000 acres has been the subject of a protracted legal battle between the fruit processing company and the residents' association headed by their chairman Philip Kamau.

The group has been demanding part of the land that the firm does not utilize, claiming their ancestors were ejected from the area to pave way for pineapple farming during the colonial era.

Kamau, a retired civil servant and human rights activist, says a deal has been reached to resettle his members following the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He said most of the beneficiaries are victims of historical injustices and that youth and women groups are set to get most of the allocations.

Kamau also disclosed that he has filed a petition seeking compensation for locals whose rights have allegedly been violated for years by the company's guards.

"Evidence in our possession indicates that at least 43 people have been killed by the company's guards. We have written letters to various organizations including consumers of Del Monte products seeking to have the victims' families compensated," Kamau said.

Locals led by Bishop Stephen Karanja welcomed the new development and thanked President Kenyatta for acting on their plight.

Del Monte management through its Chief Executive Stergios Gkaliamoutsas last year welcomed a directive by Parliament to have the land resurveyed after previously insisting that the company does not have idle land.

In July last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Ministry of Lands to intervene and resolve the lease dispute between Murang’a residents and Del Monte.

Locals through Kandara Residents Association have been demanding between 5,000 and 7,000 acres part of the land occupied by Del Monte.

The National Land Commission had in 2019 directed that the residents association be allocated 70 per cent of any land ceded by the fruit firm while 30 per cent would go to both Murang'a and Kiambu county governments.

Mr Kamau said the surrendered land will be used to build an industrial park, cottage industries, schools, low-cost housing, hospitals and other amenities.

He also dismissed as "wishful thinking and day dreaming" an agreement between Del Monte and former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu in which the company surrendered 600 acres in exchange for renewal of the land lease.

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