Published March 1, 2006
Fergus Falls Daily Journal
An Underwood native was given a lifetime achievement award by a Kenyan rights group for his work in the African country - work that, ironically, may have led to his death at the hands of the Kenyan government.
Father John Anthony Kaiser, a member of the St. Cloud Diocese who spent 36 years as a missionary to Kenya, was found dead in August 2004 from a shotgun wound.
The FBI and the Kenyan Criminal Investigation Division ruled Kaiser's death a suicide, but his family has long believed that he was murdered for speaking out against what he believed was then a corrupt and cruel Kenyan government.
During his time in Kenya, Kaiser was instrumental in helping to build schools, churches, hospitals and orphanages. But, his niece, Mary Weaver of Fergus Falls, said Kaiser also spoke out against the Kenya government's ethnic cleansing by forcing its citizens into concentration camps during a period of land grabs.
“He had death threats, was beaten and left out in the bush, was threatened with deportation,” said Weaver, who lives near where Kaiser grew up. “Three weeks after he died, he was supposed to testify before the Hague, the world criminal court, about the government.”
“Father Kaiser stood firm in the face of intimidation and death threats,” they wrote in their posthumous nomination. “He never compromised or changed his position in the face of external pressure, but continued his struggle to protect and promote human rights in Kenya ‘til the end of his days.”
“It's almost like a public apology on behalf of the Kenyan government because of what their predecessors did,” Weaver said.
While an official government inquest into Kaiser's death has been off and on since 2002, Weaver and other members of Kaiser's family are hoping to learn the truth for themselves. Weaver believes the FBI sought to ease relations with the Kenyan government and purposefully hid information from their forensic pathologist who studied the case.
Kaiser's death was featured on numerous national news shows, including 60 Minutes. His case was also taken by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Progress in her family's investigation has been slow, Weaver said, however, she may have found an independent pathologist to study Kaiser's death.
“All we want is an independent investigation,” she said. “If they come back with the same conclusions, so be it.”