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Kakuzi Accused Of Encroaching On School Land, Posing Health Risks On Kids.

The longstanding bad blood between Kakuzi Limited and Murang’a County residents seems long from over as parents and students of Gititu Primary and Secondary schools in Gatanga staged a demonstration to protest the encroachment of a section of the school land by the company

On behalf of the community and the school fraternity, James Githinji Guchu, the community policing chairman, Kinyangi Sub-Location said that despite the two schools using the 45-Acre parcel of land for more than 30 years, the company management was now invading it to plant macadamia, in total disregard of the future developments of the institutions as well as the health of the learners.

“As the Gititu fraternity, we have had a long-term strategic plan to put up a university in this land. Plans were also underway to have more dormitories to cater for the increasing number of students that are enrolling at Gititu Secondary School. It has become the norm for Kakuzi to infringe on the rights of the neighbouring communities, totally disregarding their general welfare,” said Guchu.

Guchu added that this was not the first time that the company was involved in land disputes, a matter he said, at times resulted in some residents getting imprisoned for trespass on public roads and in some instances, getting maimed or killed by the Kakuzi security officers.

He admits to the fact that the land was originally owned by the company but contests that they donated it to the institutions more than three decades ago to the school, making it a public entity.

“Yes, they are the ones who donated this land to us but that does not give them the right to repossess it in such a crude manner. The 45 acres are now public land and they can do nothing to change that. Things got this bad in 1978 when the school caught fire and documents to the effect of our agreement with Kakuzi got lost to the inferno. That is when some greedy directors decided to take advantage of the unavailability of evidence to encroach on the land for macadamia planting,” he explained.

He added that for quite some time now, Kakuzi has been encroaching on their land in bits and pieces, removing the beacons and clearing the bushes towards the school compound. He said that trouble started when the previous principal of Gititu Secondary School denied the company further encroachment of the school land. Kakuzi sent its staff and uprooted the school fence.

He accused the company of displacing residents and dumping them in areas that are inhabited by wild animals.

“I am appealing to the president, CS Lands Mr. Kaimenyi and his Education counterpart Mr. Matiang’i to come to the aid of these children because we do not have faith with our local leaders. Since we voted them in, they have never come to hear our plight. Our MCA is never concerned. MP Roho Safi (Humphrey Kimani), Mwangi Wa Iria (Murang’a Governor) know about the problems we face but they have just been giving this issue a wide berth. Hawatusaidii hata kidogo. In fact we are thinking about renaming this area to Migingo Islands for we do not have any representation at all,” he said angrily.

According to him, Kakuzi always corrupted its way in the courts and among the leadership, a factor that left the people helpless and without justice. He vowed that they will forcefully repossess this land and uproot whatever seedlings they will have planted on the disputed parcel of land.

He called for police protection for, he said, the company was known to silence their critics through death threats as well as arrests and consequent imprisonment.

Jane Wanjiku, a Form Four Student in the school pleaded with the company to revert back the school’s land as this was their only access to education. She also feared for their own health as she alleged that Kakuzi were known to use harmful chemicals in their farming. Her sentiments were seconded by Form 2 student Abdi Ture and Christine Mwikali, the president of the students’ council in the primary section.

They appealed to the Ministries of Education and Lands to move fast and safeguard their future.

Our efforts to get a concrete response from the company were fruitless as Simon Odhiambo, Kakuzi Corporate Affairs Manager and whose docket handles such issues, declined to speak to the press arguing that he was not authorised to do so. This was after playing hide-and-seek with members of the fourth estate for more than two hours before we eventually caught up with him. He directed us to the company’s website to seek some response from their directors.

However, he denied any knowledge of such a case even though they had sent one of their security agents on the ground to ascertain the magnitude of the situation. This security man is on record saying that there had been a recent agreement between them and the Board of Management (BOMs) of the two schools, allowing Kakuzi to repossess the land and plant macadamia, a matter that the DH Gititu Primary School Mr. David Karoki denied any knowledge of.

For quite a long time now, there has been hostility between Kakuzi Limited and the locals in Murang’a County over land disputes and the firm’s refusal to allow access to its neighbours, many of whom also happen to be Kakuzi’s source of labour. The conflict has seen hundreds of villagers arrested and charged with trespass for using the company’s private roads. In some instances, residents have to acquire passes allowing them to use the roads cutting across the vast Kakuzi farm.

The residents claim that they have remained land rocked since independence following orders to have public roads closed as the management of Kakuzi ordered their closure and issuance of pass cards to those allowed by the management. They also complain that their school going children are forced to use other alternative ways through thickets to get to school adding that many end up being raped by unknown assailants.

The company insists the roads are on private land and that it is unconstitutional for anyone to demand that they open up their property to the public with the community on the other hand claiming to be land-locked in their own county.

There has been attempts by the residents and local administrators to resolve the matter amicably but the company would hear none of this.

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