LSK demands resignation of newly-elected tea factory director accused of sexual misconduct

KENYA
LSK demands resignation of newly-elected tea factory director  accused of sexual misconduct

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) on Wednesday July 10, 2024 demanded for the immediate resignation of John Chebochok, the newly-elected director of Toror Tea Factory, managed by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).

LSK also blamed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for clearing Chebochok who was being accused of sexual exploitation against female workers at a James Finlay Limited factory in Kericho.

IEBC for clearing Chebochok who was being accused of sexual exploitation against female workers at a James Finlay Limited factory in Kericho.

The allegations surfaced after Chebochok was secretly filmed in a 2023 exposé by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) titled ‘Sex for Work: The True Cost of Our Tea’, showing him preying on female workers at the factory in exchange for employment.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has released a list of demands protesting Chebochok’s election, noting that it is alarming given the grievous allegations against him.

In a statement on Wednesday, LSK questioned why Chebochok was allowed to contest for the seat despite the accusations, arguing that his appointment undermines efforts to safeguard women’s rights within the tea industry.

“It sends a troubling message that individuals with allegations of sexual misconduct can still attain positions of power, thereby potentially perpetuating a culture of impunity and fear among women workers,” said LSK.

The LSK has called for Chebochok’s immediate resignation, further wanting IEBC to review its vetting procedures to conform with the provisions of Chapter 6 of the Constitution.

This is to prevent persons with questionable characters from being elected to leadership positions. The LSK also wants KTDA to implement robust policies to ensure the safety and protection of all workers from sexual harassment and exploitation.

Meanwhile, Chebochok has issued a demand letter to the BBC demanding a Ksh.100 million defamation settlement over their documentary.

Through his lawyer Danstan Omari, he noted that the allegations were orchestrated by his competitors in both politics and the tea sector, who allegedly sought to buy out Finlays from the factory.

“Politicians who are against our client’s political bid appeared to have been angered that he implemented mechanization at Finlay and as a result, some of their voters lost jobs and the said competitors fought the said process unsuccessfully,” read a letter in part.

International tea suppliers James Finlay Limited and Lipton Teas and Infusions have also called for Chebochok’s immediate removal from the director’s position.

The letter addressed to senior KTDA officials noted that although Chebochok was not formally charged for the alleged offenses, the undercover footage and the testimonies of survivors presented in the documentary cannot be disregarded.

“We are writing to request that you immediately remove John Chebochok from his position as Director of Toror Tea Factory, a KTDA factory,” said Finlays .

They have also since ceased purchasing tea from Toror Factory and urged other stakeholders to follow suit until Chebochok is removed as director.

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