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Cablegate: Nairobi Embassy Bombing Victims Maintain Protest

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Nairobi Embassy Bombing Victims Maintain Protest
At Former Embassy Site


1. (U) On July 12, 14 victims of the August 7, 1998 Embassy
bombing began a live-in protest at the "August 7 Memorial
Park," located at the site of the former US Embassy in
downtown Nairobi. Though the protestors are basically
peaceful, their presence inhibits the park from being used
for its original purposes - as a location for personal
reflection and a site for appropriate educational, cultural
and memorial events. The protestors falsely claim that a
November 5, 2001 letter from a U.S. Federal judge directs
the USG to pay each of the 5,000 bombing victims and their
families $270,000. The Park Trustees, an independent body,
previously received assurances from the Nairobi City Council
that the protestors would be evicted on September 5 but
later learned that the City Council had changed its position
and no longer accepts responsibility for the eviction.
Moreover, the protestors appear to be heartened by recent
press coverage of the mid-September meeting in which several
members of Kenya's Parliament discussed the protestors'
plight with Senators Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama.
They also receive moral support from several local non-
governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Christians for a
Just Society (CFJS),that regularly writes letters on their

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2.(U) Following the 1998 bombing, the U.S government
established a $42 million victims' "Humanitarian Assistance
Program" fund that was liquidated in 2002. Since the
bombing was a terrorist act, the U.S. assistance fund was
established for moral, not legal reasons. Among the fund's
projects: sixteen local hospitals were reimbursed for
providing emergency care to bomb blast victims and more than
1,350 survivors obtained medical treatment and
reconstructive surgery; school fees and costs were paid for
1,450 children of deceased and disabled victims; sixty
buildings were rehabilitated and grants given to over 300
businesses to allow them to reopen and a comprehensive
nationwide disaster preparedness program was established.
The fund also allowed for the creation of the August 7
Memorial Park on the site of the bombing and supported the
successful prosecution of four of the terrorists who are now
serving life sentences in the United States. The fund did
not provide for cash restitution to the victims since the
United States was also a victim, and not the perpetrator, of
the terrorist attack.

3. (U) After delivering the judgment against the four
convicted terrorists on November 5, 2001, a Federal judge in
Southern District Court in New York issued the victims a
letter confirming that he had ordered the convicted
terrorists to pay compensation to them for all medical,
property, financial and emotional losses suffered by the
attack. However, the judge acknowledged that his order
might only be symbolic since the four were believed to be
without assets and each was serving a life sentence. The
only glimmer of hope was the possible discovery of
previously hidden assets or if the defendants profited from
the sale of the accounts of the attack. Though the judge's
wording clearly does not support their view, the protestors
claim that the 2001 ruling directs the U.S. Government to
compensate each of the approximately 5,000 registered
victims in the amount of 20 million Kenyan shillings (about
$270,000), approximately $1.4 billion in total. The group
evidently receives support from several local non-
governmental organizations, such as Christians for a Just
Society (CFJS), and may receive legal support from unknown
U.S. sources, although none have been in direct contact with
the U.S. Embassy. CFJS has written three letters to Kenyan
politicians and President Kibaki, each time with cc's to the

Current Situation

4.(U) Strategies for resolving this matter remain vague.
All efforts to reach out to the group to convince them that
their claim is with Al Qaida and not the U.S. Government
have failed. This includes meetings with the former PAO,
the deputy mayor of Nairobi, park Trustees, and others. On
several occasions, such as during August 7 and September 11
memorial and commemoration services held at the park, the
group received significant media attention, and on each
occasion the embassy clarified the amount and nature of the
humanitarian assistance that the United States Government
had previously provided. At present, neither the United
States nor Kenyan Governments have additional victim support
funds available. At last month's September 11 Memorial
Service the Ambassador again confirmed that the Humanitarian
Assistance Program funds had been exhausted and that no
additional funds would be made available.

5.(U) The 14 protestors themselves show no sign of stopping
their protest which is by all accounts peaceful. In July
and August they would chant, which made use of the park
difficult for ceremonial events, but in the recent weeks
they have simply remained seated stoically on a hill in a
corner of the park. They sleep much of the day and at night
under plastic sheeting. Relatives and friends pass them
food and water through the park's iron gates. They use the
park's restrooms for washing and cleaning. When these close
in the evening they relieve themselves in corners on the
park grounds, which is cleaned up by the park maintenance
staff each morning. Pedestrians have complained at
witnessing the protestors bathing openly on the city streets
outside the park. The local press ran stories of a mid-
September meeting between several MPs and Senators Clinton
and Obama at which the MPs asked the senators to establish
an additional fund to "compensate victims of the embassy
bombing." The meeting itself, combined with the continued
direct encouragement of CFJS, has clearly inspired the
protestors who continue to relay that they will not depart
the park until their demands are fully met.

6.(U) Following the September 21 reversal by the City
Council, the Park Trustees decided on October 12 to abandon
the idea of eviction and instead will close the Park next
week until the issue has been resolved. As long as the
protestors remain, the park has little chance of becoming
economically viable, which is the Board's primary goal. The
Park maintains an impressive visitors' center, with photos
and displays from the August 7 attack. It serves as an
education center for school trips and a poignant location
for gatherings. It is also an appropriate setting for
personal reflection in busy downtown Nairobi. However, the
Trustees and park staff have set aside plans to make the
park economically sustainable until after the protestors


7.(U) The situation confronting these 14 protestors is,
indeed, sad. The majority of the fourteen were injured for
the sole reason that they were riding in a bus that was next
to the embassy when the bombs exploded. However, what is
particularly sad is that of the more than 5,000 victims
these fourteen seem unable to rebuild their lives and move
on. Rather than channel their frustrations against
terrorism or the terrorists, their belief is that financial
remuneration from the United States will relieve their
physical and emotional suffering.


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