Appeals court dismisses charges of institutional racism at U.K.-Kenyan research partnership

Science | AAAS | 3/18/2019 | Staff
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An appeals court in Kenya has dismissed charges of institutional racism at a U.K.-Kenyan research partnership. The Court of Appeal in Nairobi overturned a 2014 verdict by a lower court that found that six Kenyan academics working for the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)–Wellcome Trust Research Programme, had faced “systemic discrimination” in their careers. The scientists haven’t proved their claims, according to the appeals court, which also struck down 5 million Kenyan shilling (about $50,000 at the current exchange rate) in compensation that the lower court had awarded to each of the plaintiffs.

The verdict was handed down on 8 February but has not been widely reported.

Research - Program - Partnership - KEMRI - Nairobi

The research program is a partnership between KEMRI in Nairobi, the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and the Wellcome Trust, a U.K. charity, which provides the bulk of the funding. Headquartered in Kilifi, on Kenya’s coast, it now has more than 100 scientists and more than 700 support staff.

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The six plaintiffs filed suit in 2011, alleging that African workers in the partnership were paid less, received fewer grants, and were less often appointed at senior scientific positions than their white, European counterparts. Their lawsuit described the situation as “modern-day slavery.” KEMRI emphatically denied the allegations, but a judge sided with the six in 2014. “The systemic discrimination and violation of the fundamental rights has had significant detrimental effect on the researchers,” the judge said. “They have not only lost a chance to renew their employment contracts and connected scholarships to complete their studies, but have lost significant research outcomes as a result of the discriminative practices.”

Samson - Gwer - Plaintiffs - Judgment - Ruling

Samson Gwer, one of the plaintiffs, calls the judgment “weird and fundamentally flawed.” But, he says, “This ruling did not in any way negate...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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