Kemri ordered to pay researchers for racial discrimination

The entrance to a Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)
 clinic in Mtwapa, Kilifi County. Six Kenyan 
medical researchers were on Friday awarded Sh5 
million each as compensation for racial
 discrimination by their employer Kemri. 
Six Kenyan medical researchers were on Friday awarded Sh5 million each as compensation for racial discrimination by their employer Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Industrial Court judge Matthews Nduma Nderi awarded doctors Samson Gwer, Michael Mwaniki, Nahashon Thuo, John Wagai, Moses Ndiritu and Albert Komba, three years after filing their compensation case against their employer Kemri, the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General.

The judge said that the six PhD holders had lost an unquantifiable study opportunities and research conducted over a period of several years as a result of Kemri and the Health ministry’s discriminatory funding qualification criteria that only favours those with connections to Europe.

The six who claimed that they had been employed in short term contracts in unclear and oppressive unfair administrative arrangements, also told the court that they were restricted from seeking international jobs, getting grants, unequal pay and credit for their works as well as a scientific innovation taken by others besides the racial discrimination.

The judge agreed with them.

“The systemic discrimination and violation of the fundamental rights has had significant detrimental effect on the researchers, 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 discriminatory practices,” Justice Nderi said.

Justice Nderi noted that although it is difficult to quantify the researcher’s loss as well as compensate the invasion to their dignity caused by Kemri, the decision achieved its intention.


He said it would have made Kemri consider changing its policy with regards to collaborations with external actors, whose only aim is to take advantage of African scholars in scientific research programmes.

“This is to hope that the outcome of this case will not only serve to compensate the researchers but also make Kemri have a change of heart and policy with regards to various scientific research programmes conducted in collaboration with external actors inclined to exploit Kenyan African scholars,” he added.

Besides awarding the six, he ordered that the amount should be collected within 30 days from the date of his delivery of judgment and that they are also entitled to access all the outcomes of their scientific research, credits and benefits attached to them.

Justice Nderi ruled that each of them is entitled to a certificate of service, acknowledging the scientific service and outcome attributed to their works within 30 days.

He also ordered Kemri to pay the costs of the suit.

They six were formerly employed by Kemri under Wellcome Trust Research Programme on diverse dates.


In October 2005, their terms of service were put under KEMRI in a new agreement between KEMRI and the Trust’s laboratory.

They alleged that this meant that their working contracts had been extended on short term basis in an unclear and oppressive unfair administrative arrangement.

They also claimed they were treated with inequality on the basis of race, unfair labour practices and the taking away of their intellectual property right through the taking of credit for their work.

They further alleged to have been redeployed through mail notices when they complained and that the effect was to stifle the progress of Kenyan researchers and block their independence over Kenyanising scientific innovations.

They claimed that the funding criteria bars local African residents’ access as it states that the award is open to individuals with relevant connection to the European Economic Area (EEA) for intermediate research, Post graduate trainings, Research trainings and senior Research fellowships in clinical science.

And in December 2011, the six moved to court in protest seeking unconditional reinstatement, unstated damages and a declaration to their right to information as well as the unfair illegal treatment.