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Row over Del Monte land

Mistrust continue to rock leaders and residents of Thika and Kandara constituencies in Kiambu and Murang’a Counties, over calls to renew land lease for the multi-national fruit grower and processor, Del Monte Ltd company that lapses in 2022.

Whereas some leaders want the lease renewed to put off the two county governments from inheriting the land, residents want the company to cede its unused land to them, before any renewal is done.

Last Thursday, the Thika MP, Patrick Wainaina petitioned the government to renew the company’s lease, saying it would save 6,500 jobs and earn the country foreign exchange through exportation of the fruits and juices.

He said Kiambu and Murang’a county governments have interests in the land and cannot be trusted to serve the interest of the common man if allowed to inherit the land.

“The cost of Del Monte leaving Kenya is just too high and national government can’t leave it to county governments to deal with such a weighty matter. They are messing up big time,” he said.

“I don’t know what magic these counties will perform on this land which they haven’t done on other lands already bestowed on them if the lease is not renewed,” Wainaina said in his statement.

However, a section of residents and lobby groups from the two counties have termed the MP’s petition ‘questionable and self-serving’.

The members of Kandara Residents Association lobby group and representatives of villagers in various Thika slums including Gachagi, Matharau, Kiandutu and Kiang’ombe villages want the more than 7,000 acres of the company’s unused land surrendered and allocated to them.

They said the land belonged to their grandparents and being landless, they deserved to get a share of the company’s land.

Led by their spokesman, Phillip Kamau, the Kandara Residents Association told the government to consult locals before making a decision on the land.

“Land issues are emotive and should not be left to politicians since they have personal interests. We want our share of the land,” he said.

Joseph Gachengeci, a representative of Gatuanyaga Residents Association in Thika said the MP should have called for a public participation forum to discuss the matter before petitioning the government.

Del Monte Company is located in Kandara constituency in Murang’a County and Thika in Kiambu County.

The parliamentary committee on land, chaired by Mutomo MP, Rachael Nyamai is expected to give a rejoinder in the House this week.

Last year, former Kiambu Governor, Ferdinand Waititu signed an agreement with Del Monte in which the company management agreed to cede 630 acres of its unused land in return for a renewal of lease.

By  Charles Muoki

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