12 November 2012

Kenya: Britain Forgot Us, Say War Veterans

KENYAN war veterans have accused British government for 'deserting' them in their hour of need.

Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the Remembrance Day celebrations organised by the British High Commission in Kenya, the veteran accused UK of being insensitive to their plight by failing to compensate them fully for their role in World War I, claims that were quickly denied by the UK envoy in the country.

Tago Athieno, 90, who fought for the British Army's 21 Brigade, said Britain had reneged on its promise of looking after their welfare. "We had agreed that as a sign of appreciation to us and our fallen colleagues for the role we played in British Army, we will be compensated and that all our needs and those of the fallen comrades' families will be catered for. But apart from ceremonies that we are ferried from our homes to attend in Nairobi, like this one (Remembrance Day) we have not seen a penny from them (British)," said Tago, who chairs the Siaya War Veterans Association.

Thomas Mbugi Gichama, admitting that Britain had extended a yearly stipend to them, he said the amount is too little compared to the efforts they put in during the war.

"Yes, some of us receive some Sh5,000 per year, but what we are all left with are gunshot wounds that we sustained in the war. We have tales of stories and poverty as the only show for our bravery, which we feel is humiliating," he said.

"They might be giving out some money to some of us, but in never reaches our pockets. If we had been recognised appreciated and compensated, you would have seen me shine and would be a rich man by now not depending on my sons and grandson for handouts," said Chepkonga Chemptwo, 86, a war veteran from Baringo North.

However, Dr Christian Turner, the UK envoy, said his country felt special responsibility over the heroes and that his country was fully take care of their financial and welfare needs as a sign of appreciation.

"We have clear responsibility of taking care of them, the reason we keep celebrating their efforts. The veterans who are still living today their welfare is being catered under the British Legion Kenya association," he said.

Brigadier Jonathan Naughten, chairman, Royal British Legion, said despite Britain paying about 53 million pounds (Sh720 billion) as gratuity to the veterans in 1963 through the Kenyan government, they are still extending stipends to the heroes. He said through the association, the welfare and all interests of those who served in the armed forces are catered for.

"We have posho mills projects for them, as well we pay over 2000 veterans stipends," said Naughten, not giving the exact amount of money paid to the heroes as stipend saying it is 'privileged information'.

"We appreciate the sacrifices they made to bring freedom," he added. Remembrance Day also known as Poppy Day is a memorial day observed by Commonwealth Country signify end of world war I. It is done in memory of those who died in battles, to end hostilities of the world war.

In the country the celebration started along Kenyatta avenue at around 9 o'clock where the UK envoy laid wreath at the Askari monument before heading to Ngong road where he was joined by other head of missions to lay wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

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