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Guards at U.S. Embassy in Nairobi earn $1 per hour

WASHINGTON – Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, sits in one of the world’s tougher neighborhoods. That’s clear from the recent attack on the Westgate mall.

But the security contractor hired by the State Department to keep Americans there safe may not exactly be world-class.

The company protecting the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi pays its guards as little as $1 per hour. In fact, those guards were so poorly compensated by their employer, KK Security, that last summer they went on strike.

Who and how America defends its diplomatic posts has become an enormous issue in the year since the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. The local guard force hired by the American government to protect the mission fled during the fighting. Those guards were paid $4 per hour.

While Nairobi is booming economically, it can still be an extremely dangerous place. Western governments had warned of the high risk of terrorist attacks in Kenya for more than a year prior to last weekend’s terrorist assault on the Nairobi shopping mall.

KK Security boasts that it pays Nairobi embassy guards roughly $9 to $57 a day for that potentially deadly job. At the low end, it’s about as much as the average Kenyan makes.

However, it wasn’t enough to keep KK employees from walking off the job last June in a strike that “disrupted security” at the U.S. Embassy, according to the African news site The People.

The People reports that KK guards’ wages were closer to $2 to $4 per day when they went on strike. The firm was also accused of withholding wages that had been agreed to in a labor agreement from the last decade.

KK has been paid tens of millions of dollars from the U.S. State Department to provide security to American diplomats in Nairobi over the last decade.