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Supreme Court declines to hear petition on multinational tea estates

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Supreme Court declines to hear petition on multinational tea estates


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The Supreme Court building. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The Supreme Court has declined to hear a petition by the Kericho county government for an adivisory opinion that would have seen a number of multinational tea companies lose their land.
  • The apex court faulted the county government for failing to first seek the advice of the Attorney-General on the ownership of land parcels it claims were forcely acquired by the British colonial administration from the Kipsigis and Talai communities.

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a petition by the Kericho county government for an adivisory opinion that would have seen a number of multinational tea companies lose their land.

The apex court faulted the county government for failing to first seek the advice of the Attorney-General on the ownership of land parcels it claims were forcely acquired by the British collonial admnistration from the Kipsigis and Talai communities.

The five-judge bench presided by Justice Mohammed Ibrahim said the application was premature. “Issues are also live at the High Court in a pending judicial review (filed by multinational tea firms). If the applicant wishes to have the matter resolved, it may consider to join the pending case,” said the bench that included Justices Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola, Smokin Wanjala and William Ouko “The matter is riddled with difficulties and is messy.

“There is a pending matter at High Court. If the court below learns about this advisory opinion application it will suspend its proceedings.” A A similar case on the eviction of the Kipsigis and Talai communities from their ancestral lands by the British has been lodged in a United Kingdom court.

More than 115,000 people were forcibly driven from their homes by colonial-era army, according to the petition.

The Attorney-General told the court that the county government’s lawyer should have advised the devolved unit about the pending cases — locally and at the United Kingdom — and familiarise itself with the procedures of seeking an advisory opinion.

The pending Judicial Review case at the High Court was filed by tea firms, including James Finlay Kenya, Sotik Tea Company, Sotik Highlands Tea, Changoi/Lelsa Tea Estate, Tinderet Tea Estate, Kaimosi Tea Estate, Kapchorua Tea Plc, Kipkebe Limited, Nandi Tea Estates and Kaisugu Limited.

They own tea estates in Kericho and Bomet counties and are also members of the Kenya Tea Growers Association. They sued the two county governments, the National Land Commission (NLC) and Director of Surveys Ministry of Lands.

The NLC in a February 18, 2019 gazette notice reccomended that the ancestral land ought to have been surrendered to the affected communities at independence.



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