Locals threaten lawsuit as Del Monte land row rages

Del Monte Kenya Managing Director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas (centre) chief shop steward Jacob Mulema (right) and his assistant Mary Wanjiru address a press conference in a Nairobi hotel on September 21, 2019. Dennis Onsongo
Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The NLC and Parliament had directed that the property be resurveyed to ascertain whether there is land to be ceded.
  • Residents said the survey report will determine how their claim to between 8, 000 and 12, 000 of Del Monte’s 22, 500 acres will be executed.

The battle to control thousands of acres of prime land held by American multinational Del Monte may soon play out in the corridors of justice if a group of aggrieved residents make good on their threat to sue.

Under the banner of the Kandara Residents Association,the disgruntled locals have vowed to bypass a government-led mediation over the renewal of Del Monte’s land lease which expires in 2022, and opt for judicial intervention.

They want a survey to be jointly carried out by representatives of all the parties and an official report filed both at the court and with the National Land Commission (NLC).

They said the survey report will determine how their claim to between 8, 000 and 12, 000 of Del Monte’s 22, 500 acres will be executed.

The NLC and Parliament had directed that the property be resurveyed to ascertain whether there is land to be ceded.

And Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri had last month set the end of July as the deadline to renew the lease. Reached for comment as to why the deadline was not met, the PS said: “We are still working on it.”

Sh2.5 billion in wages

But Kandara Residents Association chairman Phillip Kamau has accused the PS of “sponsoring some MPs to be advocates of Del Monte instead of the people who voted for them,” a claim Muraguri trashed as “nonsense.”

Last week Thursday, MPs Nduati Ngugi (Kandara), Jude Njomo (Kiambu), Nga’ng’a King’ara (Ruiru) and Patrick Wainaina (Thika Town) visited the processor and declared their support for an immediate lease renewal. In a joint statement, they said the company employs more than 6,000 locals who take home Sh2.5 billion in wages annually.

Now, that visit by the MPs has ignited a fresh round of accusations with Mr Kamau claiming that they are merely seeking political mileage ahead of the 2022 polls having watched from the sidelines as injustices were meted out on the locals.

“We have been fighting historical land injustices in Kiambu and Murang’a counties for years while the said leaders were quiet,” said Mr Kamau

“The Directorate of Survey was ordered by the NLC in 2019 to resurvey the land. The issue of politicians now coming on board purporting to fight for the residents is suspect,” he added. Yesterday, when the Nation contacted Mr Wainaina, he confirmed that the meeting took place and that the talks centred on the resurvey and lease renewal.

“Of importance is to renew the lease as soon as possible so that Del Monte can continue with their business that brings in Sh10 billion in foreign exchange besides employing 6,500 people directly and thousands more indirectly,” Mr Wainaina told the Nation on phone.

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