Missionaries reject FBI report on Fr John Kaiser

(There is a glitch in the archive headlines on ICN. This is a 2001 story)

Missionaries and aid workers have rejected an FBI report into the shooting last year of Fr John Kaiser, which concluded that the priest probably committed suicide. The report, by FBI agent Thomas Carey, states that there is no proof that someone shot Fr Kaiser. It says that the 67 year-old American Mill Hill missionary had undergone treatment for manic-depression on two occasions in the past and suggests that he killed himself.

Fr John Anthony Kaiser was found dead on 24 August last year, along the road from Naivasha to Nakuru (around 70km west of Nairobi).

At the time, the Nakuru police commander Andrew Kimetto told the East African Standard that the case was being treated as murder.

Investigators at first suspected suicide after finding a shotgun lying by his side and live ammunition in his pocket.

But the Catholic Justice and Peace commission of Kenya rejected the suicide theory. Last December, after a meeting in Nairobi, the 30-member commission issued a statement expressing concerns over reports that police investigators were saying that the 67 year old missionary had taken his own life. They pointed out that the initial autopsy found that Fr Kaiser, parish priest of Kilegoris, had been killed by a high velocity rifle, fired at a distance. Fr Kaiser, was killed, they said, to "silence the voice of reason". For many years he carried out crusading human rights work on behalf of the poor.

During an inquiry commission, he criticised two powerful Kenyan State Ministers, Ole Ntimama and Nicholas Biwot for their part in the 1993 tribal clashes. Lately, he also helped several teenage girls pursue sexual abuse cases against Cabinet member Julius Ole Sunkuli. In December 1999 colleagues told the media they had been afraid for Fr Kaiser's John's safety since he took up the case against Sunkuli. He also accused the government of illegal appropriation of land and laid charges against two ministers for sending warriors to Israel for commando training.

In November 2000, Fr John was ordered to leave Kenya. After his death, the Catholic bishops of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference asked that the government of Nairobi "fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the tragic death".

The missionary news service MISNA reported on Friday that a leading African churchman had said that "by confirming the hypothesis of suicide, always maintained by the government of Nairobi, the American FBI agents merely demonstrate a lack of political willingness to punish corrupt men linked to the regime of President Daniel Arap Moi".

Missionaries in London told ICN they were 'stunned' by the news of the FBI report. One said: "This is completely bewildering and flies in the face of everything else we've been told up till now. Fr Kaiser is being seen as martyr in Kenya. I hope that his case will be investigated further."

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