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Court throws out petition seeking to block renewal of Delmonte land lease

Delmonte fruit processing company Limited can go ahead and process renewal of its land lease after the Environment and Lands court in Murang’a threw out a petition seeking to block the process.
The court went ahead and dismissed two applications by Kandara Residents Association seeking to oppose the renewal of land lease.
In her ruling delivered Wednesday, Justice Grace Kemei said the applicant did not demonstrate valid reasons to stop the process of lease renewal by the fruit processing company.
In 2018, the association moved to court seeking to stop the process, claiming the company which owns more than 22, 000 acres of land should forfeit 1, 000 acres to benefit residents of Kandara.
In the application, the residents argued that the land owned by Delmonte was acquired by colonialists, who alienated residents pushing them to live in reserves.
However, in her land mark ruling the Judge observed that, “Delmonte have legal rights on the land and have made substantial investment on it. Request for 10,000 acres of land by the association in support by Murang’a county assembly shall be a subject to the rights and interests as an investor.”
Kemei noted that claim by the community association to a portion of the suit land was unsupported and there were no damages which they entitled legally.
The fruit processor in the proceeding denied knowledge of a public participation meeting purported to have been held between the association and the Murang’a County Assembly.
The 99-year lease of the parcels of land owned by Delmonte is expected to expire in 2022 and the company is in the process of renewing the lease.
But there was reprieve to the association as the court observed that National Land Commission (NLC) has powers to investigate historical injustices and make recommendations on compensation and settlement in alternative land.
The association led by a politician Phillip Njuguna wa Ruth of Kandara objected to NLC for extending the leases on grounds of historic injustices on their forefathers when they were ejected out of the land under control of Delmonte.
Earlier on, an attempt to settle the matter out of court was scuttled following deep mistrust, before the association pulled out to seeking a legal determination through a judicial process.
The plaintiff then moved to court to block county governments of Murang’a and Kiambu from being part of the process to renewal leases of land to the fruit processor once they expire.
Last year, NLC in a Kenya Gazette notice ordered resurvey of the land under Delmonte done by the Director of Survey.
The notice also ordered the Delmonte to surrender public utility land to national and county governments.
By Bernard Munyao

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