During President Obama’s visit to Kenya on Saturday, victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi were calling upon the President to compensate the victims. The United States has said it spent tens of millions of dollars to help attack victims and their families. President Obama visited the memorial where he laid a wreath of white lilies with blue and red ribbon before stepping back and studying the names on the wall. He was joined by his national security adviser, Susan Rice, who was the top U.S. diplomat to Africa at the time of the bombing.
U.S. officials say they have spent tens of millions of dollars to help victims and their families. U.S. courts awarded compensation to Tanzanian, American and Kenyan victims but Elizabeth Maloba, 45, who lost her husband, said she and other victims have not seen any of that money. Kenya is a key regional ally for Washington in the fight against the al-Qaeda-linked terror group al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia. When Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nairobi in May, he pledged $100 million for Kenya in the fight against terror. Extremists simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998. The Kenya attack killed more than 200 Kenyans and 12 Americans at the embassy. Thousands were injured
According to Eliud Mulama, director of the Victims of Terrorism Organizations, a non-governmental group, the U.S. government used Kenyan victims to convict the perpetrators of the embassy attack only to neglect them later. He also criticized the Kenyan government for failing to push the U.S. government to pay the victims on time. “Some of the victims have already died while waiting for the compensation,” he said. “We urge both governments to speed up the process so that the remaining can get their compensation.”
A Kenyan survivor of the 1998 bombing said President Obama should give Kenya a greater consideration on humanitarian grounds to see to it that we can have some kind of livelihood. President Obama’s visit comes three months after al-Shabab gunmen massacred 148 people, mostly students, in a raid on a northeastern Kenyan university. A four-day siege in 2013 by the militants at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi left 67 dead.
Some survivors of the attack have been rendered disabled and jobless. Dozens of them staged a hunger strike leading up to President Obama’s visit. Paul Lima, a survivor of the blast, also says he has seen none of the money. The attack disabled him, and he cannot fend for himself. “I need to be compensated because I have suffered for a long time. I cannot work because of the attack,” Lima said. “My children are not going to school because I can’t pay their fees. We stood with America during the attack and they should also do the same.”
U.S. courts in 2001, convicted several Al-Qaeda members on involvement in the attacks and are now serving life sentences. One survivor says she needs President Obama to address the issue once and for all and pay the survivors the money due to them.