Kericho Governor joins list of politicians grilled over Kericho, Bomet tea firms invasion

Erick Mutai

Kericho Governor Dr Eric Mutai leaves the DCI offices in Nakuru after being grilled for four hours over the invasions at the tea firms in Kericho and Bomet counties.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai I Nation Media Group

More South Rift leaders among them Kericho Governor Dr Erick Mutai and two MCAs were on Tuesday grilled by detectives for more than five hours over the invasions of multinational tea companies and burning of tea plucking machines in Kericho and Bomet Counties.

A day after Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat, three MeCAs and an activist were grilled, Governor Mutai and the two Bomet MCAs also had their date with  the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) detectives, who interrogated them for hours.

Whereas Governor Mutai was interrogated in Nakuru, Chepchabas MCA Wesley Kiprotich and his Kimulot ward counterpart Mr Erick Kirui told the Nation that they had been questioned in the Bomet DCI offices.

"It is true; I was questioned by the DCI after being summoned last Friday. I told them what I know about the incidents," Mr Kiprotich, a former Bomet Deputy Speaker said.

Mr Kirui also said he presented himself on Tuesday and took the officers through the historical issues and interventions made by leaders in seeking to restore order in the county.

A number of politicians are said to be lined up for questioning on Wednesday and Thursday in the two stations - Bomet and Nakuru.

Governor Mutai who was accompanied by his lawyer Hillary Sigei, who is also the Bomet Senator, arrived at the Rift Valley DCI headquarters in Nakuru City at around 10 am and left around 2:30 pm after intensive grilling by detectives.

He also recorded a statement about the recent violence in his county and in the neighbouring Bomet County.

And when he finally emerged from the DCI offices at around 2pm, the county boss said he will continue leading South Rift leaders to agitate for eradication of mechanisation by the tea multinationals, as well as for other rights of their people.

“As leaders of Kericho County, we came out strongly to condemn any sense of hooliganism and destruction of property. But while still holding the view that whatever grievances our people have, in regards to mechanization in regard to the recent National Lands Commission directives that we need to re-survey the tea plantations, in regard to the other issues that inform our relationship with multinationals, we will still continue agitating for the rights of the people," said Governor Mutai.

“We will continue fighting for the rights of the people but in a very cordial environment. We already had a taskforce that I set up to look into these issues and it is good to announce that we have made a lot of advancements.The taskforce made its proposals and we have already come up with a technical team to work out implementation of the recommendations. So the discussions will continue. We will expand and we have already expanded it to Bomet County. We must get a lasting solution for our people,”added Dr Mutai.

On Monday Mr Langat revealed that he was summoned because the violence happened in his constituency.

"I received the summon letters last week pursuant to the statement made by Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki.I was required to shed light on what has transpired in my constituency. Brooke trading centre where the chaos happened is in my constituency,"he said.

"The detectives wanted to know what l have done to contain the violence,"he added.

According to the lawmaker, since the violence happened, he has convened security meetings involving the community, multinational tea companies, to contain the situation,

A senior detective who sought anonymity, told the Nation, more politicians from Kericho and Bomet would be summoned over the recent violence.

“The leaders have been interrogated and they have recorded statements, this will aid in the ongoing investigations into the violence. More leaders will be summoned for grilling. This will lead to arrests of those found culpable, “revealed the detective.

The politicians – all from the President William Ruto led United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party - from Bomet and Kericho counties, were summoned last week by the DCI, over the invasions of multinational tea companies, burning of tea plucking machines and chaos that erupted in Kericho and Bomet Counties in the past weeks.

Affected companies

James Finlays Kenya and Ekaterra Plc are the most affected companies in the invasion of plantations, illegal harvesting of tea and burning of plucking machines in what has seen a journalist and 23 police officers injured and more than five residents sustain gunshot wounds.

Ekaterra Plc has since suspended operations in its estates over the rising insecurity in what has put the jobs of 16,000 workers in jeopardy.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki was last week categorical that politicians and businessmen who have been fuelling the standoff will be dealt with as per the provisions of the law.

“Politicians involved in the incitement of locals to invade and destroy property in multinational tea companies in Kericho and Bomet will be arrested and prosecuted once the ongoing investigations are completed,” Prof Kindiki said during a press briefing in Nairobi last Wednesday.

It has emerged that a  protest by foreign investors over safety of their business enterprises in Kenya and the country’s risk of rolling back the gains made in marketing locally produced goods in the global market triggered the latest crackdown on rising insecurity in multinational tea plantations.

The affected multinational companies-Ekaterra Plc and James Finlays Kenya - and other foreign investors are said to have asserted pressure on the government through their various embassies to act on the invasions and restore order.

Subsequently, a directive to crack the whip against the perpetrators and restore order in the South Rift region,where invasions of tea plantations and burning of mechanical plucking machines had persisted is said to have emanated from the highest political office in the land.

President William Ruto, angered by the turn of events with Ekaterra Plc announcing it had suspended operations putting in jeopardy to jobs of 16,000 workers as the matter took an international dimension, is said to have ordered for a security operation in the South Rift region.

“The fear among the investors is that if those behind invasion and vandalizing of property in Kericho and Bomet counties succeeded in their illegal act, then it would equally put their investments at risk,” a highly placed source privy to the matter and who sought anonymity due to its sensitivity said in an interview with the Nation.

“The ongoing security operation was given a green light by the topmost administrative and political offices in the land, following the persistent stand-off over deployment of mechanization by the multinational tea companies that took unexpected criminal nature,”added the source.

Another source stated the invasion of the tea estates mutated from an isolated localized issue to a national and international one with players in the global market keenly following the development.

“Invasion of the tea estates, torching of tea plucking machines, illegal harvest of green leaves threatened not only the foreign investments, but was increasingly seen having a great potential to roll back Dr Ruto’s efforts to create export markets for Kenyan produce,” stated the source, in an interview.