British supermarkets stopped selling avocados grown at Kakuzi farm after reports of human rights abuse.
By Emily Dugan
A British-owned avocado farm in Kenya has backed down after being accused of using the law to silence its critics by suing charities that supported alleged victims of abuse.
Kakuzi, a vast avocado farm near Nairobi that supplied major British supermarkets, said on Friday it was withdrawing a lawsuit lodged in Kenya’s high court in March.
British supermarkets stopped selling the farm’s avocados after The Sunday Times reported in October allegations that its security guards regularly attacked villagers and workers.
In February the farm’s British owners, Camellia, paid £4.6 million to settle a case brought in the UK by 85 alleged victims of abuses by its security guards. However, it did not admit liability.
When charities in Kenya publicised the settlement, Kakuzi filed a lawsuit against them in what critics said was an attempt to silence them.
Mary Kambo of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, one of the organisations named in the case, said Kakuzi was “weaponising the law” and had used the suit to intimidate and silence them.
Tesco, which suspended supply last year, said it had contacted Camellia with concerns about the lawsuit. Both Tesco and Sainsbury’s are understood to be considering using the farm again if there is enough evidence of progress on human rights issues.
Kakuzi said it had agreed to withdraw its case and hoped to “collectively explore how the details of these human rights allegations can be shared with the proper authorities and investigated for the benefit of the whole community”.
This article was published by The Times.