Photo: Jonathan Kabugo via Unsplash

79 Kenyans have filed a lawsuit against the British agro-multinational Camellia, the parent company of the Kenyan company Kakuzi. This company is accused of having committed systematic human rights violations against workers and inhabitants of villages adjacent to and on the plantation. SOMO has been investigating the company since 2016, and helped bring the lawsuit in the UK.

The court case was filed in June last year by people living on and around the Kakuzi plantation, including (former) employees. “The Kenyan company owned by Camellia Plc are alleged to have committed systemic human rights abuses over many years. Having breached its duty of care, it should provide the victims with remedy, and act swiftly to prevent any further human rights issues” said Daniel Leader, who leads Leigh Day’s team of lawyers that handle this complaint. The case was served upon Camellia in July of this year.

Mary Kambo of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) says: “Kakuzi workers and host communities have known nothing but terror in the last 50 years. As if pushing them out of their fertile ancestral land is not enough, Kakuzi is reported to rape, maim and kill. The company continues to make a complete mockery of what constitutes responsible business conduct even when it claims to contribute to advancing social practices in Kenya. It is baffling how Kakuzi behaves as if it is a law unto itself.”

British supermarkets ban Kakuzi avocados

Kakuzi grows avocados for British supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury and Lidl. Following the court case, and a front page article in the Sunday Times news paper, these supermarket chains decided last week to stop selling Kakuzi avocados.

Lydia de Leeuw, Researcher with SOMO, says: “It is good news that they are now taking this seriously. As buyers they have a responsibility to make sure human rights are respected by their supplier. Instead of doing a “cut and run”, they should use their leverage to ensure that further human rights abuses are prevented and past abuses are remedied. So that in May, at the start of the new avocado season, Kakuzi’s avocados are not tainted with human right abuses.”

SOMO has been supporting the local communities since 2016, together with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Ndula Resource Center (NRC) .