More than 20 residents from Kajiado West were arrested today during a demonstration to protest sacking of locals by a soda ash investor in Kajiado County.
The locals, mostly youth and women, were rounded up in Kajiado town where they came to stage a protest at the depot of Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd for laying off 140 workers last week.
Police in Kajiado lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters before they could fully barricade the busy Kitengela-Kajiado road.
Chanting anti- Tata Chemicals slogans, the youth led by Maguel Leseyio and Kajiado Youth Alliance chairman Robero Lempaso claimed the multinational had arbitrarily sacked members of the local community in a restructuring programme that came into effect last week.
The community leaders lamented that the 140 employees were sacked without being given a fair hearing.
“These employees feed the entire ward of Magadi and they are the lifeline of our people. We are astonished that they can sack people at this era of Covid 19 leaving us at the mercy of the disease,” said Lempaso.
He added, “It is a lie that an International company can operate for years while making losses. They should close shop if that is their business situation. This is unacceptable. We shall resist this with our blood and hearts,” said Lempaso.
The leaders reiterated that the company’s assertion that they have been making losses over the years was dishonest.
” You exclusively mine a natural resource and sell your products abroad and still claim losses and you can’t keep jobs of 140 members of the host community. It is injustice and we have a right to rise against this,” said Leseyio.
The arrested protesters vowed to continue with their demonstrations until the investor reconsidered their redundancy plan and return locals to work.
In a letter to the affected staff, the company’s Human Resources Manager Nicholas Mwanyalo said the restructuring process was inevitable as the outfit was no longer making profits. He cited the impact of Covid 19 and reducing prices of their products at the global level as a major reason to sack the employees.
However, Kajiado Central OCPD Daudi Lolonyokwe said the protesters were arrested for “flouting COVID 19 regulations that had banned public gatherings”.
” At this time, gatherings are not being allowed. We have held them for converging in public against these regulations, ” Loronyokwe said.
The demos are yet another battle front between Tata Chemicals and the local community which emanates from complaints by the County Government of Kajiado that the company does not pay for water from the Nguruman springs and land rates for the 224,000 acres of land they occupy.