Catholic priest ordered out of Kenya as church raises concern over clash victims
As a Catholic priest received marching orders out of Kenya yesterday, the Church expressed reservations about government plans to relocate victims of ethnic clashes rather than encourage them to go back to their old homes.
This, the Church's Justice and Peace Commission said, is a way of legitimising the ethnic clashes that rocked Kenya in the early 90s.
The unfortunate priest, who named two Cabinet Ministers while giving evidence before a Commission of Inquiry into the infamous land clashes, has been in the country for 35 years. He was ordered to leave immediately or face prosecution for staying in the country illegally.
Fr John Kaiser, 67, is currently the priest in charge of Lolgorian parish in Trans Mara District. He has served in various parts of the country.
Senior clerics say they believe Fr Kaiser has been kicked out since he is perceived as having played a central role in unearthing a sex scandal involving a senior politician who is also a Cabinet Minister.
The US embassy in Nairobi has taken up the matter, sources said.
The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Nakuru Diocese says that founding new settlement areas for the clash victims instead of helping them resettle and interact with those they fought with is an outright way of legitimising ethnic violence and promoting majimboism.
The commission's executive secretary, Mr Ernest Murimi, has criticised is reported by Update, a National Council of Churches of Kenya newsletter, criticising the government for relocating over 1,000 families displaced from Lare to Bararget Forest.
But asked about the resettlement program through which the church has helped resettle clash victims from Narok and Burnt Forest, Mr Murimi said, "We are very clear with our program. It is short-lived and aimed at only assisting those targeted to reorganise their lives. We allocate each family one and half acre to facilitate the re-organisation. We expect those assisted to return to their farms when the situation normalises," he said.
The official said relocating the clash victims can be appropriate when it is temporary and specifically aimed at cooling down the situation but can never be a lasting solution because it is detrimental to peace and reconciliation.
Mr Murimi further said relocation of clash victims to separate sites only creates division and intensifies hatred among those affected by the violence.
He lashed out at the government for recently relocating the Bararget clash victims, saying it would hamper possible reconciliation with the people they clashed with in Njoro and Lare Divisions of Nakuru district.
"The government should have done all in its means to resettle the clash victims instead of pushing them away from their neighbours," Mr Murimi said.