Yes, so what?

Author:Kamau, John
Position:Kenya - Brief Article

If you are an African victim of the bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998, hoping to be compensated for your ordeal, forger it. So say the Americans. The US government has just started a legal process that will lead to the compensation of American victims of the East African bombings but not the Africans, including those who worked for the embassies.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee cleared the matter on 24 April. A Democrat, Jerrold Nadler, who had been expected to propose amendments that could have led to the compensation of the Africans, failed to turn up at the crucial meeting.

His spokesman, Eric Schmeltzer, says Nadler has a final chance to propose amendments on the floor of the House, but that will be subject to approval by the Senate and signing by President George Bush before it becomes law.

John Burns, the Californian attorney who has been representing several hundreds of Kenyan victims, has protested against the new move. "I can't understand Congress members' desire to draw a distinction between American and African victims of the attacks", he says, resignedly.

The new bill, if passed, would pave the way for compensation to American victims of the embassy bombings on the same basis as the victims of the 11 September attacks.

But there is fear in US government circles that, if they compensate the African staff employed by the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, they might be asked to compensate all of the roughly 5,500 Kenyans and Tanzanians killed or injured during the 1998 attacks.

Despite the setback in the Congress, the African victims are not ready to give up. The Kenyan survivors and relatives of those who died during the attacks, have filed two cases in the US demanding a share of Osama bin Laden's funds frozen in banks in the West. Bin Laden is blamed for the embassy bombings.

The US Treasury estimates that it has frozen some $700m tied to bin Laden, the Taliban and their associates.

A Washington lawyer, Philip...

To continue reading