President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the Ministry of Lands to intervene and resolve the lease dispute between Murang’a residents and Thika-based Del Monte Foods that owns 22,000 acres.
This follows Saturday’s petition by the American government that sought Nairobi’s intervention in resolving the lease agreement controversy in the spirit of the Free Trade Agreement that the two countries have signed and which now awaits Parliament to ratify.
This was announced yesterday by Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri, who told the Nation on phone that the President has given the ministry till end of this month to resolve the issue: “There is no diplomatic tiff between Washington and Nairobi over the issue. The envoy has reached out to us on behalf of Del Monte and we have reciprocated the gesture in good faith. All parties will be listened to and the government will conclusively deal with the issue by the end of the month.”
The PS said he is leading a working group that will survey and demarcate the land as well as arbitrate and reconcile all underlying issues and proceed to renew the lease.
He said the Del Monte issue, if not handled well, risks tarnishing the country’s reputation over the way it treats investors.
Locals lobbying under the auspices of the Kandara Residents Association, which is chaired by Mr Phillip Kamau, are demanding between 5,000 and 8,000 acres excised from the company’s hold and handed back to them.
Mr Kamau said the surrendered land will be used to build an industrial park, cottage industries, low-cost housing and a hospital. “We are targeting to build our own industrial hub in the surrendered land given that Thika town which has been built and prospered by Murang’a people was grabbed by Kiambu County,” said Mr Kamau.
Mr McCarter said the two countries continue to enjoy good bilateral relations and was banking on diplomacy to resolve to the matter.
Dr Muraguri said the government was committed to protecting all forms of land rights and will ensure the stalemate is unlocked in a win-win situation.
He said President Kenyatta has expressed concerns that the Del Monte lease impasse is negating the government’s agenda of turning the country into a top investment destination.
“Del Monte is a strategic private investment partner whose importance touches on both economic and political advantages in that, besides paying taxes, it employs many of our unskilled labour hence easing the government’s pressure of creating jobs,” he said.