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LSK calls for ouster of Toror Tea Factory director amid sexual abuse scandal

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The BBC documentary included undercover footage and survivor testimonies, leading to Chebochok's termination from James Finlays Limited and his subsequent barring from their properties.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has demanded the immediate resignation of John Chebochok from his newly elected position as a director at Toror Tea Factory, just days after his election.

In a statement on Wednesday, LSK President Faith Odhiambo criticised Chebochok's election noting that it undermines efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence in the tea industry.

Chebochok was prominently featured in a BBC documentary aired in February 2023, titled "Sex for Work: The True Cost of Our Tea," which uncovered severe sexual exploitation in the tea industry.

The documentary included undercover footage and survivor testimonies, leading to Chebochok's termination from James Finlays Limited and his subsequent barring from their properties.

Despite the allegations, Chebochok was elected to the director position at Toror Tea Factory on June 29, 2024.

In a statement dated July 3, 2024, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which manages the factory, distanced itself from the elections noting that it had no role in the election process, conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Odhiambo criticised the IEBC's decision to clear Chebochok, saying it goes against the principles of leadership and integrity outlined in Article 73 of the Constitution.

“The election of Chebochok undermines efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence within the tea sector. 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,” she said.

Tarnish reputation

She also criticised KTDA for allowing Chebochok to take on a leadership role, stating that it not only endangers female workers but also damages the global reputation of the Kenyan tea industry.

“The KTDA and all associated entities have a moral and legal obligation to protect their workforce from any form of abuse. KTDA should implement robust policies and mechanisms to ensure the safety and protection of all workers from sexual harassment and exploitation,” she said.

She urged the agency and other stakeholders to be transparent about the steps being taken to address these concerns and hold accountable those who fail to uphold ethical standards.

The LSK president also called on the electoral commission to review its vetting procedures to conform with the express provisions of Chapter 6 of the Constitution.

Odhiambo said this will prevent individuals with questionable backgrounds from contesting for leadership positions in the future.

“It is imperative that candidates for leadership positions, especially in industries with a history of gender-based violence, undergo thorough background checks to ensure they are of unblemished character. We are taken aback by the incurably deficient justification provided by the IEBC CEO, claiming that the presentation of all relevant documents, including a police clearance certificate, was sufficient to validate Chebochok's candidacy,” she said.

“We remind the IEBC of their mandate under Article 88(5) of the Constitution to perform their duties, including the clearance of candidates contesting in elections, in accordance with the Constitution.”

LSK said it remains committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights.

“We stand in solidarity with the survivors of sexual abuse and urge all relevant authorities to take swift and decisive action to rectify this situation and prevent future occurrences,” Odhiambo said.

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