Karebe Gold Mining Limited: A Tale of Politics, Harassment and Court Battles

Karebe Gold Mining Limited is Kenya’s largest commercial scale gold mine and one of only two in the country.

The company has invested over 1 billion shillings in developing its operations and is owned, according to company sources by Proparco, the French Government Development Agency, FMO, the Dutch Government’s development bank, County Pension Fund, a large Pension fund housing thousands of county employee’s pensions and international and local investors.

The company claims to have paid over Ksh 25 billion in taxes and has done an extensive amount of community development work.

Support has been provided to local schools, classrooms built, accommodation for teachers, local toilets, bus shelters, water access, roads, scholarships funded, medical centres built and more.

This company is doing things and the community are behind it.

In a recent meeting, the community leaders praised the company for providing jobs for the men and women in the community, supporting the children and for doing so much and criticised politicians for trying to collapse the company, like they did Chemelil and Mwani sugar factories in the area.

Those in the know at the company and community say the business has been harassed for years.

This started when Governor Stephen Sang and Senator Samson Cherargei waged a war of slander on the company in a shakedown during the 2018 elections.

The Governor used his powers to sabotage the company and made sure no permits and licences were secured.

By hook and crook the company kept going thanks to its workers efforts.

The politicians then turned a local family, Mzee Korir and his sons against the company and promised them fortune if they sided with them to kick the company out.

The Mzee kicked the company off his land and despite having a lease and winning their arbitration, Karebe were kicked off completely in a court ruling that was being celebrated by the Mzee and his family days before the ruling came out according to local sources.

Karebe has since been in and out of court with cases against them.

Anything they touch attracts a case.

They bought some land in 2019 and immediately it was in court in a succession case. They bought more land in 2020, same thing.

Their court cases languish in court and even top lawyers couldn’t get a resolution.

Why? Someone very high in government was influencing the cases, Governor Sang maybe, but this needed the hand of someone bigger.

A political figure close to the DP at the time, Abraham Keitany started bringing investors to the Mzee.

First Japanese investors, then Chinese investors came and they set up a company, Nandi Chemase Mining Company and started trying to mine Karebe’s mine.

His car was regularly seen with a Chinese criminal, Bai Yuehua wanted for some corruption scandal to do with COVID.

Keitany’s car at the mine with Bai Yuehua doing a deal with the family
Keitany’s car at the mine with Bai Yuehua doing a deal with the family

Illegal mining started in the company’s mining area in 2020 with the Korir family/Nandi Chemase invading and trying to take over.

The politicians got their way and in 2020 Karebe was forced to move out and onto a nearby piece of land.

This plan was snuffed out quickly as politicians influence the courts and a case was bought before the courts of succession on land that had never had an issue.

This blocked Karebe and with Sang pulling levers in the county, they could get permission to move forward and rebuild.

The 350-odd workers now faced job losses and the company faced the wire as they were closed with nowhere to go, not to mention the lost taxes for the government.

It was not until 2021 that things got really hot, so hot that in June 2021 the Nandi Chemase thugs, funded by the Chinese but supported by political figures attacked.

They tried to take over the mine and looted it and attacked their brothers in the company and burned down the MD’s house and company property.

MD David May’s house burning to the ground with all his possessions
MD David May’s house burning to the ground with all his possessions
A car destroyed in the arson attack
A car destroyed in the arson attack

The company had pleaded with police, government and anyone who would listen in letters and meetings that these thugs were operating illegally, but nothing was done.

They even foretold carnage and conflict but someone high up was pulling strings so strong the police were removed from the area and ministry of mines officials told not to respond.

Their cries for help were ignored.

The community saved Karebe that night in June and a few brave CID officers.

Men from the company and community fought off 20 or so thugs with a handful of officers over hours. Arrests were made but within weeks someone posted bail for these criminals.

This game of cat and mouse continued with illegal mining continuing and the police being pressurised into turning a blind eye.

The DCC, Esther Oyugi, was widely known to be collaborating with the politicians and doing everything to remove police from supporting the company and upholding law and order and others too.

She had removed all police guarding the company despite repeated threats and was nearly left with blood on her hands.

The company got back on its feet in 2021 and found a new place to operate from, although, you guessed it, more court challenges emerged. It did finally get its mining licence after threatening to sue the government after 3 years and things were looking up.

The company re-hired 300 people it was forced to let go and money started to flow again in the area.

Early last year 2 days before he left office, CS John Munyes signed an Artisanal Mining licence to the Mzee.

This document looked fishy as it was stamped on 1st March, was it back dated?

The licence is illegal according to ministry sources.

Such a permit cannot be signed by the CS and not without due process.

The officer who signed it, Gideon Melli wasn’t authorised to do so.

It needed a committee and no such committee was set up.

Once the licence was out the miners were back and bragging they and their masters were bragging they had support from the top office.

They started mining and blasting illegally and despite reports to the Ministry and DCC, nothing was done.

It started hotting up again and the company and locals reported the risk of conflict as these guys and their puppet masters tried to force their way into the mine.

Then on Monday 23rd January, the situation took a turn for the worse.

The local Ministry official Melli, who signed the suspect mining permit visited the site after much pressure and to investigate illegal blasting underground.

He gave the all clear and according to the company and said he had stopped the illegal miners, but late in the afternoon these thugs deliberated blasted Karebe’s workers who they could hear and see through a hole in a wall.

3 good men died, Geoffrey Rotich, Geoffrey Onyango and Julius Agui.

They were murdered and 6 witnesses survived the blast.

The politicians behind this act have used the locals and pitched them against locals.

They have tried to break Karebe and its people and take the mine.

They have turned to inciting hate and issuing death threats to the foreigners.

The cops are under pressure. There are witnesses and yet the murderers are at large.

The community gathered to mourn their dead sons and many locals mentioned names.

Felix Koskei, head of public service, Abraham Keitany, Stephen Sang, these names were on many lips as anger spilled over last week.

Even the Ministry of Mines has ordered the company to close down, is this an order from above or due process?

There is a letter doing the rounds from the Ministry suspending Karebe from working copied to Mr Felix Koskei, Chief of Staff. Maybe the rumours from the ground are true after all, why would the Chief of Staff be involved in such a trivial matter?

A company is grounded, 3 lives have been lost and the thugs behind this are pushing blame everywhere but at their door.

People are too afraid to speak, but speak they should.

Kenya needs investors and the President is courting them every week.

He was in France last week and his Chief of Staff was busy trying to take a mine that the French government have a share in.

If these thugs can get away with grabbing companies and murder, what sort of future do we have as Kenyans?

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