Labor Dispute Again Raises Concerns with Use of Private Security in Danger Zones
(WASHINGTON)—Emails obtained by the Project On Government Oversight show that American officials, including the Diplomatic Security officer in charge of protecting the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, believe that there are “American lives at risk” because a labor dispute has reduced security protection at the embassy shortly after a terrorist attack in the city killed 21 people.
Records obtained by POGO, including photos, show approximately 400 day-shift members of the Nairobi embassy’s protective force, which totals some 1,070 personnel, began a sit-in and work stoppage on January 28 in protest over non-payment of wages and benefits by their employer, the private security firm GardaWorld’s local subsidiary, Aegis-KK Security. A Kenyan court previously ordered the company to fully compensate the guard force.
Aegis-KK Security was hired by the State Department in 2013 under a multi-year contract currently valued at more than $35 million.
According to POGO’s reporting in The Daily Beast, an email from a State Department official states that the recent Nairobi attacks proved “that there is a real threat of terrorism and reinforced the need for the security officers that protect us every day. There is no, ‘if there is another attack’, it’s when.”
The situation has close parallels to deteriorating security at the State Department’s compound in Benghazi, Libya, before the 2012 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The State Department-convened Accountability Review Board on Benghazi noted a labor dispute had preceded the terrorist attacks.
The situation playing out at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya is once again raising concerns about using contractors to protect American diplomatic posts in high-risk environments.
POGO has long asked questions about and raised concerns over the reliance on private guard forces in dangerous environments.
“The dire situation in Kenya is evidence that the State Department still has not learned from its mistakes. How many times must we learn that when it comes to protecting our diplomats in conflict zones, we cannot rely on the Department’s oversight of private security forces?” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian.