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  • Human Rights Research Center

An Evaluation of the Del Monte Human Rights Crisis in Kenya

May 21, 2024


Background

Famous for its wide range of products that utilize a variety of fruits and vegetables, Del Monte is a company that has undeniably made its mark in the world of produce. Amid its success, a violent series of human rights abuses loom in the backdrop. The allegations against the fruit plantation company go back several years with heinous crimes such as assault, rape and murder tainting its legacy.

 

Violations of Human Rights Law

The human rights abuses were perpetrated after individuals were caught stealing pineapples from the Del Monte farms and they were then subjected to inhumane treatment by the security guards on duty. In December, a lawsuit was filed against the corporation by the relatives of victims and that same month also saw police conducting an investigation into the murder of four men accused of stealing pineapples.

 

The Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNCHR), who is monitoring the case, have attested that it was evident that the four men were attacked before being drowned. A KNCHR investigator stated that there was a clear change in the way in which the thieves were killed. Previously, individuals were killed and their bodies disposed of in the rivers, but this has changed to them being beaten before being put still-alive into the water to succumb to their fate. The cruel twist in the way in which these individuals' bodies were disposed of can be attributed to the goal of concealing their true cause of death and to hide the fact that foul play was involved. Now, this begs the question, why inflict such inhumane treatment onto individuals who steal pineapples from the farm? While organized crime relating to pineapple theft is on the rise in the surrounding areas, resorting to such extreme measures contradicts fundamental human rights principles. Besides, ordinary bystanders are also mistaken for being trespassers due to the prevalence of organized theft, exacerbating an already complex issue.

 

Eyewitness accounts of the violent punishments being meted out also solidify the mounting allegations against the company. For instance, in 2013, more than a decade ago, a man was murdered and his cause of death was given as drowning. However, eyewitnesses say that he was in fact beaten and thrown into the dam. The conflicting accounts paint a sad picture of the deliberate attempts to cover up these injustices.



The Fight for Justice

After the four men were suspected to have been murdered after trespassing into the pineapple plantation, Del Monte has been accused of offering bribes to cover up the suspicious circumstances surrounding their deaths. The company has also stated that the men went into the river on their own accord and claimed that they had evidence that proved contrary to the allegations against them.

 

England-based international law firm Leigh Day has taken up the case of the villagers seeking compensation for the appalling crimes done. However, previous attempts to seek justice have ended in vain when in 2019, Bernard Murigi, a labourer who worked on the farm was murdered by five security guards who were then subsequently fired. They have not been brought to trial and his mother, Alice Wambui, expressed her disappointment and sadness at the clear lack of justice in her son’s case.

 

Although the future seems bleak for the families and loved ones of those who had been the victims of the abuses, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Major supermarkets in the UK such as Tesco have suspended the orders of fresh produce from Del Monte in the wake of the uncovering of these abuses, showing that more and more companies are now opening their eyes to their complicity of being involved in such crimes.


 

Sources


  1. Chapman, E., Okoth, E. & Dugan, E. (2023, June 21). Del Monte Security Guards Accused of Brutal Killings. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2023-06-21/del-monte-security-guards-accused-of-brutal-killings/

  2. Dugan, E, Murray, G. & Okoth, E. (2024, January 16). Major human rights violations at Del Monte farm in Kenya, report finds. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/16/major-human-rights-violations-at-del-monte-farm-in-kenya-report-finds

  3. Dugan, E., Okoth, E. & Chapman, M. (2023, June 21). Guards at Del Monte pineapple farm in Kenya accused of killings. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/21/guards-at-del-monte-pineapple-farm-accused-of-killings-in-kenya

  4. Houlton, C. (2023, June 23). Tesco Suspends Del Monte Orders In Wake of Human Rights Abuse Allegations. Grocery Gazette. https://www.grocerygazette.co.uk/2023/06/23/tesco-del-monte-allegations/

  5. Okoth, E., Dugan, E. & Murray, G. (2024, February 8). Del Monte Kenya representatives accused of seeking to cover up circumstances of men’s deaths. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/08/del-monte-kenya-representatives-accused-of-seeking-to-cover-up-circumstances-of-mens-deaths?CMP=share_btn_tw

  6. The Africa Report. (2024, February 8). Del Monte guards in Kenya accused of beatings, rapes, killingshttps://www.theafricareport.com/336484/del-monte-guards-in-kenya-accused-of-beatings-rapes-killings/

  7. VOA Africa. (2024, February 8). Del Monte Guards in Kenya Face Multiple Charges of Abuse, Murder. https://www.voaafrica.com/a/del-monte-guards-in-kenya-face-multiple-charges-of-abuse-murder/7479339.html

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