Manufacturing company BIDCO and its Chief Executive Officer Vimalkumar Bhimji Shah have sued blogger Cyprian Nyakundi, Aly Khan Satchu, Stephen Jennings, Artem Gurevich, Preston Mendenhal and Rendea Vour Group for defamation. In a paid up advertisement in the newspapers, the respondents/defendants have been instructed to go before Justice Joseph Sergon to answer the charge of defamation.
Nyakundi posted on his blog and tweets about how the plaintiffs have oppressed Ugandans and alleged other human rights violations against Kenyans in its factory. In a series of 20 posts on his blog www.cnyakundi.com he made disparaging remarks that could hurt the plaintiffs name and negatively affect its profits. In addition, a series of posts on Twitter under the hashtags #BIDCOAreLandGrabbers, #StopFundingBIDCO, #LettertoVimal and BIDCOExposed Nyakundi leads Kenyans in casting aspersions on BIDCO’s dealings.
Stephen Jennings is a New Zealand businessman who also has interests in Kenya and Russia among others. In Kenya, he is part of the businessmen embroiled in a tussle over Tatu City. He is the founder and CEO of Rendea Vous Group, a Venture Capital & Private Equity firm. This is the connection between Vimal Shah and Jennings as they are both involved in the project. It is believed that in his monthly shows #MindSpeak which is owned and hosted by Aly Khan Satchu, Jennings made disparaging remarks on Vimal Shah and this could have led to the joint suit alongside Nyakundi, Satchu et al for defamation.
Artem Gurevich, the Chief of Staff of Rendez Vous Group which owns, according to the organization’s website, more than 30,000 acres (12,000 ha) of land in the urban growth trajectories of major cities in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company is also connected in the ownership imbroglio of Tatu City and is therefore the connection to Vimal Shah.
Preston Mendenhal is a Reandeavour’s head of corporate affairs.
Bidco Africa, previously Bidco Oil Refineries Limited, is a multinational consumer goods company headquartered in Thika, Kenya with subsidiaries and distributorships across 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its products include Edible Oils, fats, margarine, laundry bars and detergents, personal care products, and animal feeds. Bidco Africa owns over 40 brands and is the largest producer, marketer, and retailer of consumer goods in the region.
A few weeks ago, Nyakundi was involved in an extortion claim with another blogger Christian Dela. In a leaked audio recording with head of BIDCO communications team, Nyakundi asks for sh50M to delete all tweets and posts and also clarify that BIDCO are not frauds as he had alleged. It is further alleged that for the posts he made, Nyakundi was paid sh8000 to defame BIDCO.
A week or so later after the recording was shared online, Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officers went to Nyakundi’s home to pick him for questioning. He was not there and they found his siblings. However on hearing that CID are looking for him, Nyakundi took to Twitter to question the officers integrity stating that they are intimidating him not to expose corruption and human rights abuses. He then went on a self-imposed exile then came out a few days later.
In the civil suit before the Milimani Court division, civil case no. 300 of 2015, all the respondents are required to delete the defamatory remarks on their platforms.
That pending the hearing and determination of the application a mandatory injunction be and is hereby issues to last up to 10th September 2015, directed at each defendants compelling them, by themselves, their agents, servants or otherwise howsoever to erase and remove from their various posts, websites, blogs or their other forms of electronic and social media of any form or nature whatsoever the said defamatory words, statements or content or any similar words or statements or content of like effect relating to the plaintiffs herein, read part of the orders.
The defendants/ respondents will appear before the Judge on September 10th 2015. The notice to appear further states that
Unless you appear within 15 days, the case will be heard in your absence.
Also, take notice that an application has been filed at the High Court of Kenya in the above suit and you are required to appear for inter partes hearing on the 10th day of September 2015
It will be remembered that Nyakundi was also sued by Safaricom for defamation. While the case has yet to begin because on the said day the judge was absent and he has yet to set another hearing date, Nyakundi took to social media to fund-raise for legal fees for the suit using the same platform of the plaintiff’s, MPesa.
It is hoped that Nyakundi will this time obey the court order and remove the content on his platforms as he did not comply with the previous court order as directed to remove Safaricom posts on his Twitter timeline and blog.
This case will further define defamation in the online space and provide useful lessons on sharing content that is likely defamatory, or libelous to bring a company or individual to disrepute.