Drama at KTDA headquarters as new team takes over

Truckloads of heavily armed police officers raided the headquarters of Kenya Tea Development (KTDA)

No exit by staff as heavily armed security officer’s seal off KTDA entry and exit points in a daylong drama

By Jackson Kairu

Three truckloads of heavily armed police officers yesterday raided the headquarters of Kenya Tea Development (KTDA), causing a mid-afternoon drama in the busy streets of Nairobi as a curious crowd watched the drama unfolds from a distance.

It looks like President Uhuru Kenyatta is once again locking horns with the judiciary over the election of the new (KTDA) directors. Yesterday KTDA CEO Lerionka Tiampati and five other top officials were sent on compulsory leave by the agency’s new board, the board’s new chair David Ichocho announced that six directors had also been sent on a three-month leave to allow investigations on their conduct. The decision he said was reached on Monday during the new board’s first meeting held at the agency’s headquarters amid the heavy police presence on fears that the outgoing directors would interrupt the meeting. Other members who have been sent on leave include the company secretary John Omanga, managing director Alfred Njagi, finance and strategy director Benson Ngari and David Mbugua, general manager ICT.

“The board of directors has made the following resolution, that the following senior managers will immediately proceed on compulsory leave to allow for the necessary investigations and determination of culpability for any malpractices and possible abuse of office,” said Mr Ichocho.

Part of the crowds for a moment thought that there was a terror attack taking place at KTDA as the heavily armed policers milled around the building while others remained in parked trucks blocking off the entire access lane from Tom Mboya Street to Moi Avenue.

In a growing cold war between the Executive and the Judiciary, the high court dismissed an Executive Order issued by the president in March this year calling for fresh elections of KTDA directors. The president does not seem to be backing down this time around and appears set to prove who is boss around Nairobi.

The Weekly Vision witnessed police officers manning the main entrance to the offices, raided in a similar manner in April after the court reversed orders by Agriculture minister Peter Munya over the election of the directors. Agitated female members of staffs who were stopped from leaving the building wept uncontrollably as this writer witnessed a senior cop consult hurriedly on phone.

“The entry and exits of the building were blocked striping employees of their constitutional freedoms of movement.” One member of staff told us on phone. The police and in-house security officers warned our team to keep off, saying “there is nothing here for the media, please leave” said a stone-faced light-skinned female cop. Later, we overhead one cop whisper on whether “they had come out so we can leave” in a clear indication that they were following “orders from above”

The election of KTDA directors has kept dragging on in courts for the whole of 2020 and early 2021 aborting in March and April, with Sacco’s and tea farmers suffering huge losses as prices of their crop hit rock bottom due to the endless wrangles.

An angry President Uhuru has kept wading into the tea sector which is a major export crop grown widely in different regions including Kiambu, the home county of the head of state. But time and again courts have intervened and revoked presidential executive orders geared towards streamlining the troubled sector that was once Kenya’s top 3 foreign exchange-earners together with coffee, which also faces similar challenges.

The courts have kept defying the president in a manner not common in many African countries where the word of the head of state is the law! But the latest show of might displayed by State House might be sending an eerie message to the defiant court judges that it can no longer be business as usual! Especially with the head of state already in the sunset of his two-term tenure that expires August 2022, and anxious to leave a semblance of legacy for many disappointed tea and coffee growers in his native central Kenya.

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