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HomeNewsJohn Chebochok: Uproar After Main Culprit In BBC Exposé Wins KTDA Elections

John Chebochok: Uproar After Main Culprit In BBC Exposé Wins KTDA Elections

The news sparked uproar on social media with fears that under the new leadership, tea workers could be subjected to more sexual exploitation.

One of the contractors who was at the centre of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s undercover investigative feature under the BBC Africa Eye segment which exposed claims of widespread sexual abuse affecting tea farms in Kenya has won an election he contested for a key tea agency.

John Chebochok was on Friday, June 28 elected as the regional director of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) in the Ainamoi Tea Zone. KTDA is a private entity with over 600 smallholder farms in 16 tea-growing counties in Kenya.

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Photos that circulated social media platforms and seen by Viral Tea showed Chebochok holding his election certificate from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). By the time of publishing, it was not yet established how many votes he had won.

The news sparked uproar on social media with fears that under the new leadership, tea workers could be subjected to more sexual exploitation.

An image of KTDA offices. /FOOD BUSINESS AFRICA

“Despite our persistent appeals to Kenya Tea Development  Agency – Holdings Limited and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC) to disqualify Mr John Chebochok, they allowed his candidacy and sadly he won.

“This poses a threat to the integrity of the tea industry. Tea workers are now at risk of being sexually violated. Kenya is a crime scene,” the Wangu Kanja Foundation stated on its social media handles.

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“This is John Chebochok. Currently been elected as a director at Ainamoi Tea Factory. This man was suspended from Finlay’s Tea Factory because of multiple allegations of rape from the women tea pickers. 

“He was using his position as a manager to demand for sex for work. We wrote to IEBC as well as our lawyer Amazon Chepkirui to have his nomination annulled to no avail,” Usikimye weighed in.

Chebochok and other managers were filmed by BBC’s Africa Eye and Panorama programmes in February 2023, exploiting female workers in exchange for contract extensions and better working conditions.

The programme included detailed testimonies of sexual exploitation by workers, as well as undercover footage implicating Chebochok as a key perpetrator.

Pressure groups, led by Kenya women parliamentarians, previously came out to protest against Chebochok’s candidacy, saying that allowing him to contest in the KTDA director elections was an injustice to his victims.

“We are expressing grave concerns about Chebochok’s candidacy,” said Leah Sankaire, chair of the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association, who added that given the nature of the allegations against him, she said his suitability needed to be scrutinised.

“Electing him to this position will pose a risk to his juniors, especially women workers, who may be vulnerable to further exploitation under his leadership.”

The Coalition Against Sexual Violence, a lobby group of 13 human rights organisations in Kenya jointly said Chebochok’s candidacy was “a grave injustice to the courageous survivors of sexual violence who have come forward to hold him to account” and that his election had posed a reputational risk to Kenya’s tea sector.

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“We have already seen managers dismissed for similar offences rehired by other tea companies, perpetuating a culture of impunity and discouraging victims from speaking out about their abuses,” they said.

UK-based Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a leading alliance of trade unions, NGOs and companies working together to promote human rights in global supply chains, also condemned his candidacy and called for Chebochok’s removal from the election process.

IEBC held elections for directors of the 54 smallholder tea estates managed by the KTDA.

According to KTDA, eligible candidates for the directorship must, among other requirements, have an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) clearance and a valid police clearance certificate.

The police clearance certificate is issued by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to those who have no pending criminal investigations or convictions. The EACC certificate is also issued to those who do not have any questionable ethical and/or corruption background.

Workers at a tea farm in Kenya. /VOA

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