African victims of al-Qa'ida 'forgotten'

Terrorism: While Americans await compensation for 11 September, a fund set up after the 1998 bomb attacks is running dry
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As the United States starts to make million-dollar payments to the victims of 11 September 2001, those who suffered in al- Qa'ida's African bombings say they are being left penniless and ignored.

As the United States starts to make million-dollar payments to the victims of 11 September 2001, those who suffered in al- Qa'ida's African bombings say they are being left penniless and ignored.

The 11 September Victims Compensation Fund recently began making awards averaging $1.5m (£1m) to those injured or bereaved in the US attacks. Almost 70 awards have been made so far; thousands more are expected to follow. In total, it is estimated that as much as $4bn may be disbursed.

But the US government still refuses to give individual compensation to the victims of the 7 August 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which at least 230 people died and 5,000 were injured. Funds established to help them are on the point of drying up.

"It is just discrimination. We are human beings like those other ones," said Pius Maina, a 60-year-old printer who was blinded in the Nairobi bombing. "But they see us as Kenyans, as Africans. They don't consider us like their own people."

The US has given $37.5m (£25m) in "humanitarian assistance" to Kenyans over the past four years. The money has been used to pay medical fees for survivors and school fees for their children, to upgrade Kenya's emergency services and to help reconstruct local businesses destroyed in the blast. But that money is almost gone: apart from some ongoing medical and school payments, the fund officially wound up last month.

"We have done our duty as kind and generous neighbours and as foreigners in a foreign land. We have been as generous as we can be," said Shannon Lovgren, the outgoing co-ordinator of the Bomb Response Unit at the US Agency for International Development (USAid) in Nairobi.

"Our goal was to meet the critical needs of Kenyans affected by the blast and we have met those needs." But the victims' representatives insist the US can, and should, do more.

Philip Gitahi, of the Nairobi Bomb Blast Survivors' Association, has an office over- looking the site of the former US embassy, now converted into a garden of remembrance. Behind it juts a gleaming bank building, recently rebuilt with US money.

Kenyan victims cannot understand why some al-Qa'ida victims were compensated while others were not, said Mr Gitahi. It seemed the US cared more about buildings than people. "Why are they paying their own people if they did not hurt them?" he asked. "It is discrimination of high calibre that should not be accepted."

Victims are also angered by a recent requirement that they must pay 20 per cent of the cost of drugs that they used to receive free. John Chege, 50, had been admitted to hospital in July with bleeding lungs. He held out a prescription for drugs that had been issued a month ago, but had still not been used: "I'm not working any more so I can't afford this."

Ms Lovgren said the buildings programme was necessary to protect the livelihoods of thousands of other Kenyans, whose jobs would have been lost without assistance to their companies. The drugs "tax" was designed to prevent some victims from stockpiling drugs and then re-selling them, she said.

Such compensation as the victims have received has come from $3.6m (£2.4m) of private donations by Kenyans, while legal efforts to seek redress in the US have proved largely fruitless. One lawsuit failed last year and although one judge ordered that the assets of four al-Qa'ida operatives convicted of the Kenyan bombing should be handed to their victims there, the terrorists are penniless. In contrast, the families of 12 Americans killed in the African attacks are lobbying, apparently successfully, to have their compensation claims processed through the September 11 Fund.

One of the final hopes for the Kenyans lies with a San Francisco lawyer, Gerald Sterns, who has lodged a claim through a law providing compensation to foreign civilians injured as a result of US operations abroad. But so far the response has been lukewarm. "The Kenyan victims are no different from those in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania," said Mr Sterns.

"But they're being cut out, probably because Kenya has no oil. That's the bottom line."

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