July 26, 2005

Kenya’s Qaeda bomb victims protest for U.S. help

By Garrick Anderson

NAIROBI (Reuters) - About a dozen Kenyan victims of a 1998
bomb at the U.S. Embassy are on hunger-strike at the blast site
in central Nairobi to demand payment for medical expenses and
other losses they say they suffered.

The group -- some blind or crippled -- say they began their
protest 11 days ago at the site of the old diplomatic mission,
which is now a memorial park, to draw attention to their

"It's our right to be restituted and we're demanding it,"
spokeswoman Naomi Kerongo told Reuters on Tuesday, lying on the
grass alongside other victims.

"It's only Americans who are compensated, not Africans ...
Kenyans have suffered as a result of America's presence."

But a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, now located on the
northern outskirts of Nairobi with heavy fortifications, said
that U.S. authorities had met medical costs of some 3,000
people in the aftermath of the blast.

Blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, the bomb
killed more than 200 people -- including 12 U.S. nationals --
and injured almost 5,000, mostly Kenyans.

"There has been money distributed," the U.S. spokesman told
Reuters, saying a total of $42 million was spent on help such
as medical fees and repairs to buildings damaged in the area.


The protesters, however, said many Kenyan victims received
none of that. Thirteen of them were staying in the park
round-the-clock, while others joined them by day, Kerongo said.

The hunger-strikers said U.S. officials had told them in
2001 to calculate their losses, then the U.S. ambassador spoke
to them in 2004 promising something would be done.

"But we've had nothing for our suffering," she said.

The victims said that as well as obvious physical damage,
they should be compensated for psychological hurt and loss of
property including roadside kiosks.

"The U.S. rebuilt the area, business and buildings, but
ignored the little people," Kerongo said.

A U.S. fact-sheet said more than 50,000 Kenyans had
benefited directly or indirectly from its assistance.

"The U.S. is proud of its achievements in helping Kenyans
affected by the bomb blast ... The United States and Kenya have
jointly suffered the effects of terror and must continue
standing together against terrorism."

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne)