06.03.24 Environment

Del Monte fires 200 security guards at Kenyan pineapple farm

Del Monte has fired more than 200 guards from its huge pineapple farm in Kenya and replaced them with staff from the global security company G4S.

The overhaul follows a human rights assessment commissioned in the wake of a major investigation by TBIJ and the Guardian that uncovered numerous allegations of violence by the farm’s guards dating back years.

In a statement released yesterday, Del Monte said that all security operations on the vast plantation in Thika, central Kenya, will now be outsourced to G4S, which will deploy around 270 trained professionals to the farm. It is understood that 214 current guards have been made redundant.

Kenyan media reported that some of the sacked guards staged protests outside Del Monte’s offices in Thika on Monday, expressing anger towards management and trade unions.

Wayne Cook, the acting deputy managing director of Del Monte Kenya, said: “The safety and security of each individual within our company and the surrounding community are our top priority.”

The company also said the new security personnel have undergone a rigorous vetting process and extensive training, which includes de-escalation techniques and the use of minimal force.

Shortly after TBIJ’s original investigation, Del Monte ordered a human rights assessment to be conducted by NGO Partner Africa. The resulting report, the findings of which were seen by TBIJ, laid bare the scale of problems on the farm and included claims that company employees were providing intelligence to a cartel of pineapple thieves.

“G4S will have to deliver in a way which is sensitive, with trained guards, taking proportionate action and making sure there's a reduction in violence,” said Peter McAllister of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which oversaw the commissioning of the human rights assessment. “The onus is now on G4S, and Del Monte needs to hold them to account to do that.”

As reported by TBIJ and the Guardian in June, the allegations of violence by the farm’s guards date back over a decade and included killings and brutal assaults.

In December, the bodies of four young men were retrieved from a river on the farm following a botched pineapple raid. Del Monte representatives were accused of offering bribes to locals in an attempt to cover up the circumstances around the deaths. Del Monte did not respond directly to allegations of bribery but said it had evidence to contradict the accounts provided by the witnesses.

Cook said the company was “committed to addressing the effects of the coordinated criminal operations targeting our fields and stealing large volumes of pineapples”.

TBIJ has attempted to contact the Central Organization of Trade Unions Kenya for comment.

The headline and text of this article was amended on 21 March 2024 in light of new information about the number of Del Monte guards made redundant.

Main image: Del Monte’s pineapple plantation in Thika, central Kenya. Credit: Brian Otieno for TBIJ.

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