Kenya’s tea industry has long been considered a vital part of the country’s economy, with hundreds of thousands of people relying on it for their livelihoods.
However, a recent BBC News Africa exposé revealed the sexual harassment of female employees in two Kenyan tea farms, sparking outrage among many Kenyans.
In response to the allegations, Members of Parliament have launched an investigation into the matter.
The National Assembly Committee on Labour traveled to Kericho County on March 3 to investigate the claims of harassment.
The committee, chaired by Runyenjes MP Eric Muchangi, liaised with county security officers to gather comprehensive information.
Speaking to the press, Muchangi stated that the committee believed interaction with the security officials was crucial, as they had already begun investigations in the county.
“We held a closed-door engagement with county security officers who provided us with critical information,” he said. “Their findings are critical to us, and we decided to meet with them to understand the situation better.”
While in Kericho County, the committee grilled bosses in one of the two accused farms for several hours, attempting to ascertain the gravity of the case.
The probe began after Kericho Women Representative Beatrice Kemei sought a statement from the Departmental Committee on Labour, expressing concern that “desperate workers were subjected to heinous acts by managers with less or no action from the government and the administration of the companies in question.”
The seriousness of the allegations has prompted action from higher authorities as well.
On Wednesday, March 22, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, ordered Inspector General Japhet Koome to probe the allegations.
“The resultant investigation file should be submitted to the office within seven days,” the DPP wrote to Koome.
However, four managers from the two tea farms went into hiding, avoiding recording statements with the police.
This has led to widespread criticism of the tea industry and calls for swift and decisive action to be taken against those found guilty of harassment.
As investigations continue, many Kenyans hope that this case will serve as a wake-up call to the tea industry and other sectors where sexual harassment is prevalent.
It remains to be seen what action will be taken to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.