pounds 3,000 for life ruined by Nairobi bombers

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THIS WEEK, in Nairobi's Uhuru Park, 49 surviving victims of the bomb that tore apart the lives of thousands of Kenyans and a large number of Americans received a small, some would say pitiful, compensation.

On 7 August a huge blast aimed at the American embassy killed 213 people, including 12 Americans, and injured 5,400. Almost simultaneously a bomb attack on the US Embassy in neighbouring Tanzania killed 11 people, all Africans.

On Tuesday, 49 people who were instantantly blinded or lost limbs in Nairobi were handed cheques for 300,000 Kenyan shillings - about pounds 3,000.

By African standards, the cheques were generous; by Western standards, derisory. On that fateful Friday in August, Catherine Bwire, 25, was looking forward to the birth of her baby, due in 11 weeks.

She has now given birth to a daughter, Jean, but she will never see her. As well as her cheque, Ms Bwire received a gift of baby clothes.

Pius Maina, 64, was sitting on a bus near the embassy when the bomb went off. Flying glass tore out his eyes. He has had to give up farming, but said the cheque will help him to build a couple of small houses on his land for rent, and put his children through school. The money was too little, he said, "but it can help".

Samuel Njenga was not injured, but collected the money on behalf of his wife, who is still in hospital. Teresia is paralysed from the waist down.

The sum represents a third of the amount needed to send Teresia, a computer technician with four children, to South Africa for two months of rehabilitation. "Even if I started shouting in anger, it wouldn't do any good," Mr Njenga said. "You just have to accept the situation, and keep on trying."

Balancing on crutches, Magani Mauko, 51, said he needed his compensation for surgery on his right leg, which was badly mangled when a building collapsed on top of him. "I'd like to start a new business," the former handyman said, "but first I need to walk, to feed my family and pay the rent."

A panel of businessmen, social workers and government officials who make up the National Disaster Emergency Fund Committee are reviewing 2,514 compensation claims, and distributing donations that amounted to pounds 2.5m.

Compensation ranges from 400,000 shillings for families of the dead to 30,000 shillings for the injured. So far the committee has paid 194 death claims.

The US authorities believe Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile and militant Muslim, masterminded the bombings. On 4 November, a 238-count indictment opened in New York and charged Mr bin Laden and accomplices with murder and conspiracy. Three alleged co-conspirators are already jailed in New York.