1998 bomb blast victims sue State over 'security failure'

Margaret Achieng Jow Prays during the 20th anniversary of the August 7, 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, at the August 7th Memorial Park in Nairobi on August 7, 2018.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In a petition filed at the High Court through legal aid group Kituo Cha Sheria, the victims want to be compensated on grounds that the attack was a result of negligence and failure by security agencies.

Victims of the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi are now demanding compensation from the State due to possible security lapses that led to the terror attack.

In a petition filed at the High Court through legal aid group Kituo Cha Sheria, the victims want to be compensated on grounds that the attack was a result of negligence and failure by security agencies.

They also want President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a Commission of Inquiry to establish what happened prior to the bombing.

The commission’s task is “to find culpability of State institutions and State officers in the attack and recommendations for their prosecution”.

They also want the court to declare that the government failed to take the necessary steps to detect, prevent and stop the terrorist attack as well as the entire planning and execution.

They believe the bombing happened despite the security agencies having sufficient knowledge and intelligence of an impending attack.

“An inquiry will foster accountability within the security establishment and avoid repetition of a similar attack,” reads the court papers.

Stay in Sudan

The Executive Director of Kituo Cha Sheria, Dr Annette Mbogoh, said before the attack, the Sudanese government had hosted Al Qaeda militants.

In Sudan, the militants were allegedly provided with passports and allowed to ferry weapons and money across the border into Kenya. Khartoum had also given safe haven to Osama Bin Laden leading to the US State department to place the country on a list of State sponsors of terrorism in 1993.

“Had the Kenyan government beefed up security at the border, the terrorists would not have come into the country or enjoyed a safe haven to plan and execute the attack,” said Ms Mbogoh.

She said the transportation of equipment and weaponry used in the attack and the smuggling of money point to complacency and laxity by the government, allowing Al Qaeda operatives to bypass custom and immigration controls.

1998 bomb blast

A file photo taken on August 8, 1998 shows police workers removing the remains of the car-bomb used to destroy the US embassy in Nairobi, that killed 280 Kenyans and 12 Americans.

Photo credit: Alexander Joe | AFP

Led by George Ngigi, the victims claim the operatives lived in an apartment in Nairobi, where they set up a makeshift laboratory for their planning.

“In August 1997, before the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the FBI and the Kenya police raided the house of one Wadih El Hage in Nairobi. (E) Hage was a terrorist on site manager and found a very disturbing letter on his computer hard drive,” the court documents state. 

Government’s responsibility

The victims claim the terrorists were residing in Runda Estate in May 1998. The home was isolated by high walls, making it nearly impossible for anyone to observe activity in and around the house.

“A month later at approximately 10.30am, terrorists driving in a truck detonated a large bomb in the rear parking area, near the ramp to the basement garage of the American Embassy leading to the death of 213 dead and 400 injured,” they state.

“They failed to ensure our security by failing to beef up security at the Kenyan borders and to vet all persons coming into the country as is expected of a country exercising due diligence.”

Mr Ngigi said that from the said failures and breaches by the government, the Al Qaeda operatives freely established residences, laboratories, transport equipment and weaponry as well as movement of its personnel in Kenya.

The petitioners’ case is that the State either ignored or neglected several useful intelligence and information on impending terrorist attacks targeting the embassy.

Sudan and Iran

Among those who have filed the case through lawyer Boniface Muinde, of Kituo cha Sheria, are officials of the 1998 US Embassy Blast Association. The officials are Mr George Ngige Njoroge (chairman) and Reverend Evanson Ndung’u Gitu (secretary), whose wife Susan Wairimu perished in the blast.

Mr Njoroge, Rev Gitu of the Calvary Chapel and the others also say that six months after the entry of a judgement in their case, the AG should be compelled to file an international jurisdiction case against Sudan and Iran for compensation of all the victims and their families.

They also want compensation from Al-Qaeda assets and BNP Paribas S.A (BNPP), a global financial institution headquartered in Paris.

They further want the AG compelled to seek acknowledgement of responsibility from Sudan and Iran where, according to them, the attacks were planned and executed from.

Lawyer Boniface Muinde (centre), of Kituo Cha Sheria, is pictured with George Njoroge (left) and Rev Evanson Gitu, who are officials of the 1998 US Embassy Blast Association, at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on May 18, 2021.

Photo credit: Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

Many families are still crying for justice 22 years down since the terror attack.

Mr Njoroge, a businessman who operated video shops, was in town to repair his video machine when he fell victim of the attack.

Rev Gitu’s wife had gone to get a visa at the US Embassy as they were to fly to the USA for a religious leaders; conference. He said the manner in which they have been treated over the years makes it seem "we are not human beings”.

Kituo Cha Sheria, Mr Njoroge, Rev Gitu, Flora Wamukowa, Esther Njeri Githagui, Douglas Sidialo, suing on behalf of 337 other victims of the blast, have named the Interior adn Defence Cabinet secretaries, Inspector-General of Police, the National Police Service, the National Intelligence Service and the Attorney-General as defendants in the matter.

The case will be mentioned on May 12.

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