While I was doing the my last touches on an article to contest Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and Land Commission Chairman Mohammed Swazuri’s intention to renew leases of multinational companies dealing with tea, coffee and sisal, a ray of hope swung around me when I learnt of the petition Nandi Hills Member of Parliament Alfred Ketter tabled in Parliament today.
Many multinational companies have their leases expired, including those owning thousands of hectares of tea plantations in Nandi and Kericho counties. But the peanut-earning communities around these billion dollar industries are languishing in poverty, unemployment, mistreatment, fear of losing a menial job by stroke of a pen… regardless of Labour Laws and compulsory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This is completely opposite of what the government states as creating employment to Kenyan citizens – and as the main reason of extending their leases. Many tea estates in Nandi County employ casual workers for a period of 2 to 6 months (at most) after which the contract terminates. They’ve also scrapped the overtime increments and some of the deductions from the employees’ salaries are questionable.
There are several posts in this blog dating 2 to 3 years back (few posts are found on links herein) advocating for Nandi and Kipsigis Communities against historical injustices of land grabbing, expiry of leases and its mysterious renewal without public participation and win – win trade collaboration. Ironically, after country’s independence in 1964 these white-dominated companies operating on grabbed ancestral lands boast of billions of money accrued from Kenya’s resources and go to an extent of selfishly denying locals access to benefits like increasing wages and salaries, longer employment contracts, erecting makeshift shades to sell foodstuffs to their workers and denying community permission to graze domestic animals around or near “their” fenced territories, among others.
In Nandi Hills for example, Arise Nandi knows of some families arrested or had their cows seized by Nandi Tea Estates LTD and Eastern Produce Kenya for allowing their children to graze cows in the company’s planted forest and fields.
“There are many landless Kenyans, yet we have few foreigners owning large tracts of lands. If a lease has expired, then the land should be returned to the original owners. People cannot suffer during the colonial period and then suffer after independence”, MP Kangogo Bowen for Elgeiyo Marakwet has said.
His counterpart Alfred Ketter added that the tenure of lands were reduced from 999 to 99 years. “In 1895, the colonial administration allegedly evicted the Nandi community from the ancestral land currently occupied by multinational tea companies… the new constitution has brought along major changes to land ownership”.
This baffling lease extensions have led to numerous court battles like the Talai Clan Petition, recent suing of Kipkeibon Tea Estate by over 300 landless Kenyans around Nandi Hills, and many more that are slowing development of Kalenjin nation.
Come to think of it, many land cases hit a snag because cartels have thrown their hats in the rings of Magistrates, High, Appeal to Supreme Courts to delay or rule in their favour – because corruption has become a modus operandi. Poor squatters eventually give up the fight and remain landless after long years of attending never-ending court sessions and governments’ reluctance to support them.
The recent ruling of a 30% salary increase, compulsory annual leave, travel and medical allowances, 60 years retirement age by Employment and Labour Relations court ruled by Justice Monica Mbaru has not been implemented. It erupted massive demonstrations across affected counties. This shows how multinationals have disrespected the Kenya’s rule of law.
Among the lands targeted by the petition currently in Parliament are Kipkeibon, Kipkeikei, Chemomi, Savani, Septon, Kibwari, Nandi, Siret, Kipchamo, Kaboswa, Kibabet, Tindiret and Kalyet tea estates. Majority of these lands are owned by Eastern Produce Kenya Limited.
It is Arise Nandi prayer that the legislators will unite and draw the line of law guiding leases in Kenya with foreigners. There must be specified number of renewals, compulsory public participation, CSR and mutual benefits between the communities and their operations.
Enough of being a squatter in my land! Enough of neo-colonialism!
Additional Sources: Daily Nation and The Standard Newspapers.
County Have Your Say
Comment, and Share!