Del Monte Kenya Ltd

Del Monte fight for Thika land to proceed in court

A battle for thousands of acres of prime land held by American multinational firm Del Monte Kenya Ltd will continue in court after Del Monte and the Kiambu County Government were blocked from seeking to have the case struck out. Del Monte is being accused of transferring the parcel to a private company.

The court dismissed an application to strike out the case filed by a lobby group over sale of what they term as public land in Thika. The ruling by Justice Lucy Gacheru came amid persistent battles to control thousands of acres of prime land held by the fruit processing firm with reports that the lease documents are set to expire in two years’ time.

The firm, together with Kiambu County government, County Director of Physical Planning Mr James Maina and Nick Waweru wanted the judge to dismiss the case filed by a lobby group known as the Kandara Residents Association.

In their preliminary objections, the applicants told court that the case was time-barred and was against the legal principle of ''res judicata'', a legal doctrine that bars continued litigation of a case on same issues between the same parties.

In its objection, Del Monte had told court that the suit is time-barred by the provisions of Section 7 of the Limitations of Actions Act as the cause of action is alleged eviction of the plaintiffs’ ancestors from the parcel of land dating back to 1895.

The court heard that such a claim of land ought to be instituted within 12 years of the cause of action. But, after going through court papers of the plaintiffs, Justice Gacheru found that the foundation of the case is the determination of the National Land Commission (NLC) that was made on February 7, 2019.

Justice Gacheru ruled that it cannot be said that the suit is based on historical injustices and thus time-barred. The judge, however, found that the lobby group lacks ''locus standi'' to sue on its own but can do so through a representative. She ordered that its name be struck out from the court papers.

As a result, the members will be represented by the group's chairman, Mr Karira Kimara.

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