Del Monte claims four men whose bodies were found days after they went missing attempted to steal pineapples from its farm
Kenyan authorities have launched an investigation into the alleged killings of four men by guards at a pineapple plantation owned by the US company Del Monte near the East African country’s capital, Nairobi, a county commissioner, Patrick Mukuria, said on Thursday.
The bodies of the men were recovered from a river close to the Del Monte farm in Thika, about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital, on Sunday and Monday, five days after they went missing, according to local broadcaster Citizen TV.
Relatives of the victims, who have called on the government to investigate how the men ended up in the river, told Citizen TV that some of the bodies bore marks of injuries, suggesting they had been beaten.
“When we found the first body, we started screaming,” Rhoda Wayua, a local who was searching for her son, told the outlet. “After a while, the second body washed up. It was that of my son,” she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Muranga County Police Commander David Kainga Mathiu told Reuters that while the alleged murders “inside the Del Monte pineapple farm” are being probed, no suspects have been arrested.
The latest incident comes months after a media report claimed that security guards on the American company’s farm, which employs some 6,000 people in Kenya, had killed and assaulted locals for “trespassing.”
British newspaper The Guardian reported in June that it had found evidence that Del Monte guards had brutally assaulted and killed people suspected of trespassing on the Kenyan pineapple farm. The outlet, along with Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, had launched an investigation into accusations of abuse and violence by the security personnel in the East African country.
Earlier this month, The Guardian reported that human rights groups were investigating another death at the farm after a 25-year-old man’s body was found floating in a dam on the firm’s property in November, four days after friends claimed he went there to steal pineapples.
In a statement published by AFP on Thursday, Del Monte said surveillance footage showed the four men had attempted to steal pineapples from its farm in an area where “organized crime around pineapple” is “becoming increasingly rampant.” It assured the public that its local unit was cooperating with the Kenyan authorities as they continue to investigate the “circumstances surrounding the four bodies retrieved from the Thika River.”
“Our security footage from when the men attempted to steal pineapple does not show any wrongdoing on Del Monte’s part, but rather shows the thieves fleeing toward the river, after dropping the bags of stolen pineapples, attempting to escape security guards,” it said.
Del Monte is said to be the largest exporter of Kenyan produce to the world, supplying canned and fresh pineapple to supermarkets in the UK and elsewhere.
December 29, 2023 at 03:04PM