Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Justice should be done to the victims of ethnic clashes

Letter to the Editor, Daily Nation

As we mark the 6th anniversary of the death of Catholic priest John Kaiser this year, it is time once again to reflect on what he stood for in the fight for the respect of the rights of the internally displaced and the poor in Kenya.

The Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) joined other human rights organisations in remembering a man many people have praised for being outspoken in human rights advocacy. The life and times of Fr John Anthony Kaiser is a study in courage, determination and sacrifice on behalf of the weak, the oppressed and the down-trodden.

He did not consider himself a civil rights activist or champion. His achievements have, however, emboldened and inspired many to love the truth, cherish liberty and fight for human rights. Fr Kaiser said he was just a simple parish priest. We agree and honour him.

Kenya's transition from single-party dictatorship to multi-partyism in the 1990s was accompanied by violent conflicts dubbed the "land" and "ethnic" clashes. These conflicts affected parts of the Coast, Western, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces.

The consequence of these conflicts was destruction of property and means of livelihood, fear and insecurity in society and massive internal population displacement. The victims of the clashes sought refuge in schools and church compounds where they camped and received assistance from the church and well-wishers.

And many of these are still there today, fearing to return to their homes. Others fled to shopping centres or to live with relatives in other parts of the country.

The coming to power of the Narc Government in after the 2002 elections, that ended Kanu's four-decade rule, gave hope to many of these internally displaced people that they would eventually be compensated or allowed to return to their farms. However, to date the Government has not lived up to this expectation. Instead, it has continued to downplay the scope and significance of the serious problem of internal displacement.

There is a lack of political goodwill which is, perhaps, because of the realisation and fear that the issue of land ownership remains very controversial in Kenya.

The RCK's interest in advocating for internally displaced people arises from the Government's failure to find a lasting solution to the problem for year. Our objective is to encourage a positive Government action on IDP issues and to create benchmarks on management of internal displacement in East Africa.

One important effort in this direction is through the government making a conscious effort at enacting the draft IDP law.

The blood of Fr Kaiser, who diligently suffered his congregation for years, should not go in vain. Like the blood of other Kenyan heroes before him, it should keep the flame of the war against injustice burning and ensure the protection of the voiceless.

There is no more important tribute to pay to Fr Kaiser than to fulfil his most cherished vision, that of "Standing up on behalf of the weak, the oppressed and the down-trodden."

Assistant Advocacy Officer
Refugee Consortium of Kenya

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bishop warned over remark

The Daily Nation

Published September 2, 2006


A clergyman has been warned against commenting on on the death of Catholic priest John Antony Kaiser, which is the subject of an inquiry.

Senior principal magistrate Maureen Odero, who is presiding over the team investigating the death, said Kenya Episcopal Conference chairman Archbishop John Njue had "no right to use the pulpit to make populist and unsubstantiated claims about the subject of the inquiry".

"While he is entitled to his own opinion and views, he is treading on a very thin line," said Ms Odero.

She said if he had any information relevant to the proceedings, he should share it with the inquiry.

She said the court did not wish to engage in sideshows and "warns Archbishop Njue and like-minded individuals to immediately desist from making any comments touching on the subject of the inquiry".

The magistrate said the court should be allowed to make its own conclusions based on evidence adduced.

She was making a ruling on an application made by a lawyer representing former Cabinet minister Julius Sunkuli, who wanted the cleric charged for contempt of court.

Archbishop Njue was speaking at a Mass to mark Fr Kaiser's anniversary. He said Fr Kaiser fought for the rights of the needy, including land clashes victims.

Other clerics who spoke at the function said they would not rest until the killers of the Mill Hill missionary were arrested.

Yesterday, a DNA specialist, Dr Solomon Mboke, told the inquiry that he carried out tests on a piece of bone believed to have been part of the late priest's skull.

The bone was found by Naivasha Catholic parish workers on September 19, 2000, as they cleared the Morendant junction site on the Nakuru-Naivasha highway for the priest's first memorial service.

The witness said from the tests, there was a likelihood that it belonged to the priest.

Fr Kaiser's body was found on August 24, 2000, near the junction on the Nakuru-Naivasha highway, with his head blown off and a shotgun by his side.

The inquiry will resume on November 1.