After a six-year battle, a soldier who claimed he was ordered to dress up as a Taliban insurgent for an army training video due to the colour of his skin has won £490,000 ($630,000) in compensation from the Ministry of Defence.
According to the Daily Mail, Lance Corporal Inoke Momonakaya, a Fijian soldier who served in the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said he was left suicidal after suffering a “sustained campaign of racism” from his white colleague soldiers.
Recalling one of the racist incidents in 2011, the 40-year-old said he and five fellow Fijian soldiers were cast as Taliban fighters for a Ministry of Defence training video because they were black.
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A senior officer allegedly told them: “You guys must be feeling right at home wearing them dishdash [Arab robes] – no one can tell the difference [between] you guys and the Taliban.”
The video was aimed at teaching incoming troops in Afghanistan how to spot clues that roadside bombs had been planted. What hurt Momonakaya the most was that his white colleagues were cast as British soldiers in the film while the black soldiers were made to play the enemy because of their colour.
Momonakaya, who served one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, further claimed in a lawsuit that while he was based in Cyprus, a senior officer once called him a “Black bastard” and likened him to a black “troll doll.”
“This doll was black and had frizzy hair and a big nose. It was very ugly,” Momonakaya said.
“When he said this, everyone in the platoon started laughing. Afterwards, he wrote my name on the doll and said it was the platoon’s new mascot.”
“This went way beyond a joke or Army banter. It was very offensive and chipped away at my self-confidence. I went quiet and just stared at him. The sergeant major laughed at me, probably out of embarrassment because he knew he’d gone too far,” Momonakaya was quoted by Daily Mail.
“The racism left me wanting to kill myself. I was going to buy a rope. Today, I am still undergoing psychological treatment and I may not be able to work again. It has left me suffering from a complex form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It wasn’t just me – other Commonwealth soldiers in my unit were treated like second-class citizens. It was a disgrace and a stain on the reputation of the British Army,” the father-of-four from Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, said.
Realising he had had enough, Momonakaya reported the racial treatment to the Service Complaints Commissioner, the internal Army watchdog, but his case was dismissed in 2012. This prompted him to begin legal action against the Ministry of Defence.
“I enlisted in 2005 and intended to serve for a full 24 years,” said Momonakaya, who was medically discharged in 2012 due to PTSD.
“The bullying cost me my career, hence why I had to sue the MoD.”
The ministry refused to comment on the settlement but said in a statement cited by the Daily Mail that: “Discrimination and bullying have no place in the Armed Forces and will not be tolerated.”