Kenya: Salt companies' impacts on communities in Malindi

case study salt Malindi - photo credit - KNCHR

Photo credit: KNCHR

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), which provides guidance to the government, businesses and other non-state actors on their responsibility to respect human rights, received numerous petitions from local communities in Malindi affected by salt companies. In response, the KNCHR initiated a public inquiry to investigate these claims and the potential involvement of public authorities. In their petitions, local communities complained about forced evictions from land perceived as belonging to the community, health problems arising from salt manufacturing, abuses of workers’ rights, harassment of residents by the police and local administration, limited recognition and participation of the local communities as well as environmental degradation.

The KNCHR engaged in desk-based research and fact-finding visits, collected public testimonies, received written submissions and sought expert evidence. It also combined information gathered by civil society organisations and community-based organisations, and collected information through the Integrated Public Complaints Referral Mechanism (IPCRM). Communities were an important source of data, as they provided the KNCHR with oral submissions, pictures, land registration documents, contracts and agreements. The chiefs’ office constituted a useful first point of contact for grievances. To make the data collection as complete as possible and give an opportunity to all members of the community to provide information, the KNCHR put in place a variety of strategies, including organising thematic groups and collecting statements separately for segments of the population less comfortable with voicing their concerns in public discussions. Research findings and recommendations were gathered in a report published in 2006.

The KNCHR found that the local community’s rights have been abused and their livelihood compromised by the activities of salt manufacturers, who receive support and protection from the government in exchange for material benefits such as vehicles and accommodation. As a result of the inquiry some companies have closed down whilst other companies have reopened after implementing recommendations from the KNCHR.

Timeline:

  • Kenya National Commission on Human Rights receives petitions from Malindi local communities
  • 2004-2005 : Kenya National Commission on Human Rights conducts investigation into petitions
  • 4-8 July 2005: Inquiry hearings 
  • 2006: Report published