Companies

Kakuzi seeks to settle rights abuse cases out of court

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Enterance to Kakuzi offices in Murang’a County. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Summary

  • Kakuzi’s parent company Camellia Plc is seeking an out-of-court settlement of a human rights abuse case in which scores of Kenyan victims have sued the agricultural firms in the UK.
  • The multinational, Kakuzi and another unnamed subsidiary have been sued over allegations that their employees meted out violence and rape to members of the community in Murang’a County.
  • Camellia, which owns a 50.7 per cent stake in Kakuzi, has already spent more than Sh500 million in legal expenses and now wants a quick resolution of the human rights row.

Kakuzi’s #ticker:KUKZ parent company Camellia Plc is seeking an out-of-court settlement of a human rights abuse case in which scores of Kenyan victims have sued the agricultural firms in the UK.

The multinational, Kakuzi and another unnamed subsidiary have been sued over allegations that their employees meted out violence and rape to members of the community in Murang’a County.

Camellia, which owns a 50.7 per cent stake in Kakuzi, has already spent more than Sh500 million in legal expenses and now wants a quick resolution of the human rights row.

“Meanwhile, we are urgently exploring with UK law firm Leigh Day (which is bringing legal claims based on allegations of wrongdoing by Kakuzi's security guards) whether their clients' claims can be quickly resolved as this would help ease the tensions in Kenya that have recently been mounting,” the multinational says in a trading update.

Leigh Day brought the claims against Camellia and its subsidiaries on a no-win no-fee basis. It remains to be seen whether the alleged victims and the multinational can agree on a level of compensation that will result in the termination of the court case.

Resolution of the human rights row will be important in Kakuzi’s readmission as a supplier of avocadoes to UK supermarkets including Tesco that recently suspended their orders after the issue was reported by UK’s Sunday Times.

Camellia says it is also making changes to its governance policies and processes that will be cascaded to the subsidiaries and which are aimed at dealing more effectively with future abuse cases.

“Undoubtedly, even if only some of these claims are true, something has gone very wrong in a company we invest in,” Camellia said.

“These claims have prompted Camellia to take urgent action to review and, if appropriate, upgrade the group’s governance and safeguarding oversight functions to ensure that in every respect they comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

The multinational added that it will use its shareholding influence to encourage its subsidiaries to implement any changes that are necessary.