Kakuzi battles human rights abuse allegations as 79 Kenyans file case in UK court
Local agricultural cultivation and manufacture company Kakuzi PLC is facing human rights abuse allegations between 2009 and 2020.
The case against the company, majority-owned by UK-based Camellia, has been brought forward in the United Kingdom courts by 79 Kenyans represented by law firm Leigh Day.
Among the allegations lodged in part by former Kakuzi employees, the company’s security guards have been accused of violations including killings, rape, attacks and false imprisonments.
Leigh Day has however lodged the case against Kakuzi’s parent company noting the firm’s close supervision by its UK managers.
“The case is being lodged against the UK parent companies in the Camellia Group because of the clear evidence that Kakuzi is tightly supervised and controlled by those UK companies, and that senior managers in the UK companies also manage Kakuzi,” noted Leigh Day.
On Sunday, the UK Sunday Times published part of the allegations levied on Kakuzi which include the battering of a 28-year-old man to death over allegedly stealing avocados.
On Monday, Kakuzi came out on the defence accusing Leigh Day of running a smear campaign against them and some of their customers.
Further, Kakuzi fingered Leigh Day for pursuing legal charges in the UK as opposed to pressing charges in Kenya.
“The allegations made in the Sunday Times article are against Kakuzi employees committing criminal acts against Kenyan Citizens, however the law firm Leigh Day has made it clear in their communications to Kakuzi that the Kenyan legal system is incapable of dealing with these cases,” the firm said in a statement.
“In their view, the allegations can only be heard in a British Court. Kenya attained its independence from Britain over 57 years ago. It is therefore unfathomable that a British law firm could assert that the Kenya judiciary is incapable of dealing with such claims.”
The Avocado Society of Kenya backed Kakuzi up, accusing the Sunday Times of colluding to run down Kenya’s avocado value chain as it defined Kakuzi as a ‘responsible corporate citizen’.
“This article is part of an international business smear campaign against Kenya avocados due to the rising popularity in the international markets as the most superior avocados. Kenya has just emerged the lead grower and exporter of avocados from Africa,” the society said in a statement undersigned by CEO Muthomi Ernest.
The allegations would later on Monday hit at the heart of the Kakuzi business with UK’s supermarket chain Tesco dropping it from its list of avocado suppliers.
Kakuzi supplies other supermarkets in the UK with avocados including Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Marks & Spencer.
The company operates a 54 square mile plantation in Murang’a County, employing an estimated 3000 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 Ksh.380 on Monday’s trading’s session from Friday’s close.