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Talks on Del Monte land deal hit a snag

Tuesday November 6 2018

Del Monte pineapple farm in Thika

Part of Del Monte pineapple farm in Thika. Residents of Kandara Constituency in Murang'a County who had filed a case against the renewal of pineapple farm Del Monte’s lease agreed have the case settled out of court. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NYABOGA KIAGE
By NYABOGA KIAGE
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NDUNG'U GACHANE
By NDUNG'U GACHANE
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The tussle over the renewal of Del Monte land lease is taking a fresh lead as the owners now fear that they might be short changed.

This is after representatives from the company, Kiambu and Murang’a counties yesterday failed to turn up for a meditation process which was aimed at finding a solution to issues over the land.

Through its advocate Charles Wambugu, the National Land Commission said that the meeting took place but Del Monte lacked a representative.

However, he said that the North American food processing company wrote to the commission explaining why they would not be attending the meeting.

“The company raised a few issues on why they could not make it today and we agreed to have a date where everyone will be available,” he said.

According to him, if all parties agreed then they could seek an extension in the court to allow for negotiations.

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Last month NLC invited the warring groups with an aim of having them negotiate and find a solution.

Failure by the other involved parties to present themselves raises worries as Judge Grace Kemei directed that the parties report back on development of the discussions on November 12.

Speaking Tuesday in Nairobi, Kandara residents association led by their chairman Philip Njuguna said that they were against an ongoing negotiation that Del Monte be issued with a new 100-year lease.

“We are not going to accept a foreign company to go on enjoying making hay on our land yet we who are supposed to occupy it live in slums,” said Mr Njuguna.

He said that the failure by the other parties to turn up for the meeting was suspicious as he threatened that they would go back to court.

They maintained that they were not in agreement with the extension of the deal to lease the land to the North American food processing company which holds over 22,500 acres spanning Murang’a and Kiambu counties.

Mr Njuguna asked those involved to follow the constitution and ensure that they involve them in any further engagements on the land.

According to Kenyan law, foreign land ownership is often restricted to leasehold basis where international buyers can acquire property only on a 99-year lease. However, on expiry of the leasehold term, the Constitution states, a renewal of the lease may be sought.

Article 65 further provides that any document which purports to confer on a foreign investor an interest in land with a lease of more than 99 years is deemed to be null and void.

It is on this basis that the residents are demanding that a 6,000 acre piece of land they claim was grabbed by white settlers from their forefathers returned.

They then proposed that 1,000 acres of the land be set aside for a hospital, greenhouse and a cemetery.

The stand-off on the land has been in existence for over a decade now, however last month the residents withdrew a case they had filed in court and agreed to negotiate an out of court deal.

All the parties involved agreed on the deal but failure by other parties to attend the first meeting aimed at getting a solution caught the residents by surprise.

Del Monte’s 18,000 acres of land are in Murang’a while 8,000 acres are in Kiambu County.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu renewed the company’s lease last year while the lease in Murang’a is expected to expire next year.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria has vowed not to renew the company’s lease for another 99 years unless the company cedes 6,000 acres of land which will pave way for development of a city along the busy Thika-Kabati highway.

“We will not renew the leasehold for Del Monte until we get land which will pave way for construction of a city along Thika-Kenol highway,” the governor said in a past interview.