Del Monte Kenya protest High Court ruling on leasehold dispute

KENYA – Leading fruit processor in Kenya, Del Monte has objected the High Court’s ruling to not hear its leasehold petition on claims of lack of jurisdiction to deal with the alleged allegations.

Del Monte, which operates a vast pineapple plantation in Muranga and Kiambu counties in Central Kenya, has been tussling with the County Governments over renewal of its lease, which the company claims has been withheld by the county government.

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High Court judges Wilfrida Okwany, George Kanyi Kimondo and Chacha Mwita struck out the suit citing lack of jurisdiction to determine the matter and that the dispute should have been filed and heard before the Environment and Lands Court.

They held that violations cited by the firm in its case are tangled with the dominant issue being the right to renewal of leases over the disputed land.

“This dispute falls squarely within the purview of the Environment and Land Court (ELC). We also find that although Del Monte claims a violation of various constitutional rights, those claims are intertwined with the dominant issue and that the ELC has jurisdiction to deal with the alleged violations,” read the ruling.

On October 1, 2012, the pineapple plantation company made the requisite applications for extension of the terms of various leases to the relevant local authority in the counties of Murang’a and Kiambu where the respective parcels of land are situated.

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Despite observing and complying with the statutory procedure, the two county governments failed to issue the letters of ‘no objection’ for extension of the leasehold terms.

Murang’a county is demanding 1, 500 acres of Delmonte land along Thika–Kenol Highway for “public use” as a pre-condition for issuing the letter of no objection sought by the company.

In addition to that they argue that the company uses hazardous pesticides in the growing of pineapples and permanent damage to the natural resources of the people of Murang’a.

The firm has not indicated what steps it will take but has stated that it is seeking a solution to the situation.

“The Court’s pronouncement that it lacks jurisdiction and that the issues should be handled by the Environmental and Land Court, will only serve to further delay a process that Del Monte Kenya has attempted to resolve amicably with the County Government of Murang’a since 2012,” said Stergios Gkaliamoutsas, Managing Director Del Monte Kenya Limited.

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