British Council announces improvements following investigation on racism claims in Nairobi

The racism allegations came out in 2021

The British Council building in Kisumu, Kenya. The organisation is the UK government’s cultural arm abroad. Photograph: Images of Africa Photobank/Alamy

The British Council office in Kenya has concluded an investigation on racial discrimination after a letter circulated online claimed some employees had faced bullying and harassment.

Announcing findings of the investigation, the British Council indicated that the claims of racial discrimination could not be substantiated.

"An investigative process into alleged discriminatory practices at the British Council office in Kenya has concluded that there was no evidence of racial discrimination, bullying or harassment as complaints raised against staff members could not be substantiated," read the statement in part.

The Council added that the incident had facilitated 'improvements' on the operations at its Nairobi office.

Seven black current and former staff members of the British Council in Kenya alleged systemic racism at the institution.

A letter written by the seven individuals sparked an inquiry in July 2021 when it was sent to the British Council as well as Kenya police.

It said: “The cases underline a repeated practice by white members of staff to constantly assign Kenyans as underperformers, inadequate, unskilled, unprofessional, and suspects as the organisation abuses its procedures and systems to validate its discriminative practice.”

Five of the seven accusers claimed they were discriminated against during a redundancy process which they claimed favoured white colleagues.

One of the allegations came from a programme manager who worked at the British Council from August 2014 to 2019 who claimed they were put at risk of redundancy without adequate explanation.

Another complainant claimed they resigned as a senior official of the Kenyan office’s welfare association after a white executive frustrated efforts to channel staff concerns to the senior leadership team.

“Staff have no confidence raising concerns through HR … for fear of being victimised,” the complainant said.

A manager for the professional skills centre in Kenya who claimed they were among a number of black employees who were unfairly targeted for redundancy.

The British Council indicated that the investigation had led to the identification of opportunities for improvement of its operations in Kenya.

"These improvements include: the process for handling complaints, the management of staff performance and the management of redundancy processes," states the Council.

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