No respite in tussle over Watamu hotel evictions

Thursday, February 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Staff at Sun Palm Resort in Kilifi fete their lawyer Maurice Kilonzo after he secured court orders to enable them resume work following an eviction by the landlord on January 15. Photo/PD/BONFACE MUSANGI


There were celebrations in Watamu after Italian investors evicted by their tenant from a Sh2 billion resort rented in  a 12-year deal took back the management of the hotel.

Afrikan Kivulini Limited, a subsidiary of the VR Club, had been thrown out of the management of Sun Palm Resort for 15 days after being evicted by the owner Eleonora Cozzi using court orders obtained from Milimani Law  Courts.

However, officers from Malindi Police Station who supervised the eviction on January 15, came again with stay orders requiring the owner and her managers to vacate the premises.

This was after a push-and-pull between the parties for two weeks as the tenants sought to have their orders executed. All this time, more than 100 workers camped outside the resort daily, waiting for the matter to be resolved.

In a dramatic move, African Kivulini managers and their lawyers were led by police officers into the resort with a view to resuming management.

Afterwards, staff working under the landlady Cozzi were escorted out together with their managers before the former staff begun shouting in excitement heading towards the gates.

Security guards who had previously barred them from accessing the gates were withdrawn and the former guards took over the premises.

The managing director of VR Club, Paolo Bo, hugged his staff and told them that justice had prevailed.

He thanked the authorities for helping them get back to the resort and continue managing it as per the contract agreement, though he said, it was not easy. “After some days of fear, everything is okay.

We are happy for our employees who are all back to the hotel and are already all running up and down as they are aware of how to set the place in the right way and offer the required services for our guests,’’ he said.

Bo said they hope the tour operators will give them a second chance though, he admitted, it would not be easy because of the chaos that happened for two weeks.

Resident Manager Johnson Kalisho told the workers to begin work even without uniforms.

“You can work without uniforms today  and leave the rest to be handled legally.  What we want is peace,” he said.

Lawyer Maurice Kilonzo said justice had prevailed. “For two weeks, my  clients could not access the facility despite several court orders reinstating them,” he said. 

Afrikan Kivulini had leased the resort for 12 years and claimed to have spent over $1 million (Sh100 million) in upgrading it.

However, the owner moved to court and obtained court orders to evict the tenants for what she termed as breach of contract.

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