Kakuzi Plc which has recently been in international news for human rights abuses of its firm workers and the surrounding community is struggling to get away from that episode.
The firm has contracted former Attorney-General Githu Muigai to lead its human rights reforms as part of the agricultural firm’s settlement of alleged abuses including rape and violence.
He now chairs the company’s newly created Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee (IHRAC) that will provide technical advice to the board of directors.
Other members of the committee are former Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) board member Grace Madoka, former Finlays Kenya legal and HR director Brenda Achieng and Kakuzi’s non-executive independent director Andrew Ndegwa.
“Kakuzi is pioneering a public accountability programme demonstrating its commitment to respecting human rights within its operating and supply chain environment,” Prof Githu said in a statement.
“The members of the IHRAC are meant to autonomously advise and review Kakuzi’s action points to ensure that the firm remains at the leading edge of this accountability programme.”
Settlement reached in a case which saw British company Camellia PLC & its subsidiaries sued over a string of alleged human rights abuses (incl rape, assault, 1 gentleman was reportedly beaten to death) on the Kakuzi farm in Kenya.
Includes financial compensation for 85 victims. pic.twitter.com/lPYAEDYHqe
— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) February 17, 2021
The human rights row cost Kakuzi and its parent firm Camellia Plc a total of Sh1.1 billion in legal fees and payments to the victims in Kenya and Malawi.
Camellia said it would take remedial measures and make governance reforms and encourage its subsidiaries to do the same with an aim of better handling potential future abuses.
The measures include funding of charcoal kilns and access to firewood, building two social centres for community meetings, and employing predominantly female safety marshalls on Kakuzi’s farm “to give visible reassurance to those using access routes and particularly women.”
Kakuzi said it will also build three new roads accessible to the community without any requirement to obtain a licence to give people better access to local amenities.
The company will establish a technical working group to survey and demarcate land which has been previously donated by Kakuzi and design and implement a human rights defenders’ policy.
Kakuzi’s alternative dispute resolution process is also being scaled up to address the community’s grievances quickly and ensure action is taken to deal with employees who flout the company’s ethical standards.
Camellia was sued in the UK by law firm Leigh Day which represented scores of alleged victims of violence and rape perpetrated by employees of Kakuzi and another unnamed subsidiary.
Resolution of the human rights row will be important in Kakuzi’s readmission as a supplier of avocadoes to UK supermarkets including Tesco that suspended their orders after the alleged abuses were reported by UK’s Sunday Times.