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British Council opens investigation after Kenyan staff alleged racism | Foreign police

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The British Council has opened an investigation into allegations by current and former black staff in Kenya who claim to have been victims of systemic racism.

White senior executives of the organization, which is the cultural arm of government overseas, have been accused of discriminating against Kenya-born BAME staff, especially as they were selected and assessed for dismissal.

A letter claiming to represent seven current and former staff sparked the investigation in July when it was sent to the British Council as well as the Kenyan authorities.

He says: “The cases point to a repeated practice by white staff members of constantly assigning Kenyans as underachievers, inadequate, unskilled, unprofessional and suspects as the organization abuses its procedures and systems to validate its practice. discriminatory.

Five of the seven accusers say they were discriminated against during a dismissal process which they say favored white colleagues. The allegations come amid cuts in central government funding for the British Council as well as a shortfall linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The British Council, known as the UK government’s main instrument of soft power, launched an investigation into the allegations in September and said it took the allegations of racism seriously. He says he is still waiting for all complainants to present evidence and has questioned some of the allegations in the initial letter.

One of the complainants who was fired said he would not cooperate with the investigation because its scope was too narrow to include previous allegations.

Apollo Edewa, 33, a former program manager in the Nairobi office for five years until February, said staff believe the organization gives much more weight to white versus black views and now want to adapt the investigation to justify his prejudices.

He said: “The British Council says it will only investigate these allegations if we allow them to manage the complaints process and select the cases to investigate. But many employees, past and present, believe that there is a racist culture in the organization that dates back several years. The opinions of whites carry more weight than those of blacks in Kenya. “

Most of the complaints revolve around a recent layoff program implemented after a shortfall following government cuts to the aid budget.

The allegations described in the letter include:

  • Another complainant claimed he resigned his post as a senior official in the Kenyan office’s welfare association after a white executive thwarted efforts to convey staff concerns to the management team. . “Staff have no confidence in bringing their concerns to them through HR… for fear of victimization,” said the complainant.

  • A director of the vocational skills center in Kenya who claimed he was one of a number of black employees unfairly targeted for dismissal.

The British Council was founded in 1934 to improve cultural relations and social mobility. It generates 85% of its own income, mainly through education and exams, and receives some funding through a government grant.

It faces significant job cuts and office closures after income from English teaching and exams fell during the pandemic.

Regarding complaints of racism in Kenya, a spokesperson for the British Council said they received the letter in July and launched an investigation in August, but are still waiting for all complainants to identify themselves. They also pointed out that 98% of the employees were appointed locally.

According to the British Council, an individual who admitted details of his case in the letter now says he has not given his consent to be included in the complaint.

The spokesperson said: “The British Council takes all allegations of discrimination, racism, bullying and harassment very seriously. We operate in over 100 countries around the world and our values ​​of equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of everything we do.

“Upon receipt of the anonymous letter, we immediately opened an investigation. This investigation is ongoing and we maintain open avenues of engagement with the author of the letter. The author of the letter declined to be questioned and has yet to provide any evidence to support the claims. “

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