Sunday, November 04, 2007

Stay strong, stay tough

Helen and Peter fell for each other in Africa and built their life in Minnesota. Since his death in the bridge collapse, she relies on that love each day.

By Pam Louwagie, Star Tribune

Last update: November 03, 2007 – 10:42 PM
They gathered in the foyer before sunrise, the widow and her children singing to the man missing from their lives.

The older two -- Justina and Andrew -- stood at the door, backpacks at their feet. The younger two -- Theresa and David -- stood on either side of their mom, still in pajamas. They sang lustily, eyes filled with tears.

It is tradition in Peter and Helen Hausmann's family to sing on birthday mornings. They've done it on every birthday since the kids were little.

So on this dark October morning they sang to their father, who died when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed.

Ready? Helen started and the kids joined in. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Daddy ...

Often, Peter had to encourage his children to belt it out. Louder, you hooligans! But this morning, they sang out without prompting.

Helen held back her sobs. She was staying strong for her four kids.

• • •
Even as a younger man, Peter Hausmann reached out to others. He'd see the sad stories of Third World children on TV commercials and couldn't help but send money. A farm kid from South Dakota, he landed a high-paying computer job in the Twin Cities that took him around the world. It was a life he'd worked hard to get, but it wasn't making him happy.

Finally, his brother Leo, who would become a Catholic priest, suggested that Peter do mission work. In 1987, Peter arrived at a boarding school in a remote Kenyan town to teach science.Helen Ongaki, a slight woman who wore her hair in braids, worked at the school, watching him from afar for about a year. He looked like a girl, she thought, with his scrawny build and flowing brown hair.

In the mud-soaked town during rainy season, with lousy roads and poverty all around, he was always smiling, kind and happier than anyone she knew.

One day, as children playfully quizzed Peter on their names, Helen spoke to him for the first time.

What about me? Do you know my name?

He did.

Do you know my name? he asked back.

You are Mr. Peter Joseph Hausmann.

He looked at her, wide-eyed. How do you know my middle name?

She grinned.

That's my secret.

Their courtship included hikes down a muddy road, him getting to know her family and winning their love. It was an improbable union and grew more so when Helen and Peter married and, after his visa expired, moved to South Dakota.

Peter got another computer job, and they moved to the Twin Cities. So much was new to Helen, but she was determined to adapt. Her first time on an escalator, she stepped on as if she'd done it her whole life, totally assured that Peter wouldn't lead her into danger.

And there was the 1991 Halloween blizzard. She tried opening the front door and couldn't because of the snowdrifts that had piled up. Watching Helen's expression, Peter doubled over with laughter.

She wondered what kind of frozen hell he'd brought her to.

When do we go home? she asked.

Any time you want to, he replied.

But they stayed. They had four children and built a family life in Rosemount, getting to know neighbors and becoming involved in the Church of St. Joseph, where Peter taught confirmation classes and the children went to grade school.

On most summer evenings, Peter built a bonfire in the back-yard fire pit, and sat near it until somebody joined him. They often had deep spiritual conversations. But he was never serious for long, keeping the mood light around the house, never using real names. Helen was "Mrs. Wiggins," or "Flossy" for her love of dental flossing.

For their 17th anniversary this year, Peter gave Helen a card listing the "Top 10 great things about being married as long as us."

Peter added six more. "We are there to help each other," he wrote. "We play ridiculous games together... We are furnaces for each other... We love each other a lot. Really a lot."

In late July, Peter and Justina talked around the fire about an accident in the news. A man had died and his family was left behind. Justina asked why bad things happen to good people.Justina remembers what he told her: I can guarantee you, in 100 percent of those cases, those people are always ready to go.

The phone rang just before 6 p.m. on Aug. 1. He was stuck in traffic, he told Helen, and was on his way to pick up their friend -- a priest from Kenya -- to bring him to dinner. The phone went dead and it went right to voice mail when Helen called back.

At first, she didn't worry.

But 10 minutes turned into 20 and when Theresa turned on the TV at 6:30 to watch "Wheel of Fortune," they saw news of the bridge collapse.

Right away, Helen knew.

She got a ride from a family friend into the city that night. They checked a hospital. They went to the Holiday Inn where families were gathering, gave them Peter's description and waited for word.

Peter's brothers and sister came from out of town, and every day they drove from Rosemount to the Holiday Inn near the bridge. The children stayed home, comforted by neighbors and church friends.

On the fourth day, divers found Peter's van. He wasn't in it, which gave the family some hope. Did he swim to safety? Maybe he had hit his head and was wandering the streets, unsure of who he was?

* * *
It wasn't like Peter, 47, to be away. He avoided overnight business trips. Sometimes he worked from home. On days when his son had a football game, he started his day early to be there. He cooked on weekends sometimes. He kept track of paying the bills. He fixed the rattling refrigerator.

When Andrew wanted to go out for football, Peter convinced a nervous Helen that it would be OK. When the girls wanted to wear nail polish, he persuaded her to give in.

Helen doesn't drive, so Peter shuttled the family everywhere, making sure the kids got to religion classes, doctor appointments and school activities.

On Saturday nights, after the little kids were in bed and the older ones could watch them, Peter and Helen did the grocery shopping together.

* * *
While Helen and Peter's siblings waited for news with other families, they spoke with the relatives of Sadiya Sahal and her 22-month-old daughter, Hana, who were also missing. Their family had immigrated from Somalia. They talked about beliefs and faiths, Christian and Muslim.

On the ninth day, Helen was at home when the phone call came. Peter's body had been found.It's done, she thought. No more torture.

Helen said she was told by authorities that Peter's body was half in and half out of another car, and it looked like he was trying to rescue a little child -- possibly Hana.

"That makes it OK," Justina said later, through tears. "Because, you know, he probably would have struggled with depression and all that if he had gone away not helping."

* * *
Helen doesn't sleep much. She sits in bed, her little children sleeping beside her, and opens a book of word-search puzzles Peter once bought her. She focuses intently on each word, each puzzle, trying to stop worry from creeping into her thoughts. Life is a struggle to keep grief at bay.

Sometimes, worry wins. That's when she feels like she's drowning, too.

In her eyes, Peter rescued her from Kenya and brought her to the United States for a better life for their children.

She wonders who will rescue her from this?

"I don't know who will be my hero anymore," she said. There's no one left to turn to."

"Not the way I turned to him."

During the day, Helen draws strength from her children.

Justina, an A student who wants to be a pediatrician, has band performances. Andrew, 14, has football games. The younger children rush through the front door in their school uniforms. David, with Peter's mannerisms and energy, jumps around constantly, asking to play outside. Theresa brings home giggly friends.

Helen tries to laugh when she can. "Your dad would say, 'Come on, you hooligans!'" she tells them, trying to herd the family to the dinner table.

But now, when Justina, 17, asks to drive someplace after dark, or when the other children try to bargain about playtime, Helen is left to decide alone.

Peter's advice echoes through her head.

Stay strong, stay tough, she hears him. Say 'no' even if you know it's going to break somebody's heart.

Helen's brother, sister and niece, who came in from Kenya for the funeral, are staying as long as they can to help. Peter's siblings make frequent trips to town. Friends take Helen to Andrew's games.

She spends two mornings a week battling with the bills Peter used to handle. On the phone, arguing about discrepancies on a late bill, she refrains from telling what has happened.

"I don't want that 'poor lady excuse,'" she said.

But later, when the children have gone to bed and the house is still, the gravity sets in.

"I am afraid of sinking," she says. "If I stand still, I'm afraid I might go into the thought mode. ... I'm the one holding up the whole family."

* * *
On Peter's birthday, Oct. 12, Helen sent Justina to get eggs while she finished some paperwork. Then she opened a box of chocolate cake mix and started measuring. She slid the pan into the oven, kids licking the beaters, and made sure Justina knew her job was to take it out.

A family friend drove Helen to Andrew's football game. A ninth-grader, he was playing on the Rosemount varsity for the first time. His opening kick sailed under the bright lights. Helen could imagine Peter there with her.

Way to go, young man, she could hear him saying. A-bear, you did good!

At halftime, Justina danced in step with the marching band. After the game, Peter's relatives arrived. Helen took out a single white candle and set it in the middle of the chocolate cake. She lit the wick. She called everyone into the dining room.

They ended the day the way they began: Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you...

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102
Pam Louwagie •

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

City Pages

A few months ago, I was interviewed by a young lady who works with an "entertainment" type newspaper; in Minneapolis-St. Paul, it is the City Pages. In St. Louis, where she was from, it's the Riverfront Times. Several people were interviewed and my mother suggested some others. One of them refused to be interviewed, citing the paper as a "rag." Personally, I was of the opinion that any information was good information, no matter what angle they took.

And, I'm pleased to report, they took the high road. This article is the cover story on the City Pages, and I would imagine on similar papers in other cities. Thank you, Aimee. You did a very nice job.

- - - - - - - - -

Was it a Kenyan assassin who killed the Minnesota-reared missionary—or was it madness? Seven years later, the verdict is in.

The Death of Father Kaiser

By Aimee Levitt

Just before dawn on an August morning seven years ago, John and Henry Kanbo drove toward the market town of Naivasha to buy cattle. The Naivasha-Nakuru Highway is usually one of the busiest roads in southwest Kenya's Rift Valley, but at 6:00 a.m. it was deserted, except for the battered white Toyota pickup perched on the edge of a ditch near a grove of acacia trees. The brothers pulled over and noticed a string of pink rosary beads hanging from a switch on the dashboard and a body lying in a brick drainage culvert.

In the dim morning light the Kanbos made out the corpse of a large white male, 6-foot-2-inches and 200 pounds. He lay on his back, his black leather jacket and gray trousers splattered with mud. There was a pile of blankets and sheets at his side, and a double-barreled shotgun at his feet. Blood oozed from where the back of his head should have been.

When police arrived, they had little trouble identifying the body. The man's name was John Anthony Kaiser, a man much loved by the people of Kenya for the work he did on behalf of the poor and dispossessed. He was an American priest who had first come to Africa 36 years earlier as a missionary, fresh from his ordination in St. Louis, where he attended Saint Louis University and began studying for the priesthood.

At first the Kenyans knew him as Father Seven Oxen because of his physical strength. Later they called him the Rhino because he was tough and stubborn, not a man to be crossed. In the few years before his death, he'd become the Key, or the Voice of the People, unafraid to speak out against the corruption that permeated the Kenyan government.

Father Kaiser was 67 years old when he died that early morning of August 24, 2000. Naivasha police told the Kenyan newspaper The Nation that he'd been shot in a "gangland style execution."

Kaiser was not the first outspoken Catholic priest in Kenya to perish under mysterious circumstances. "You'd be surprised at how much went on in western Kenya in the 1990s," says Dave Durenberger, a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota and a high school classmate of Kaiser. "A lot of priests spoke out against the government, and the government tried to scare them off and keep them in their place."

Sometimes they went even further, says Father Cornelius Schilders, the current bishop of Ngong, Kaiser's old diocese. "Many people who spoke out against the oppression and corruption disappeared," he explains in a recent email.

In public forums and in the Kenyan and international press, Kaiser accused Kenya's president, Daniel arap Moi, of staging bloody tribal wars in order to drive people from their land and seize it for the government. Throughout the 1990s, Kaiser had been followed, harassed, and even beaten and placed under house arrest by Kenyan police and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

"I reckon they tried to frighten him so he would leave Kenya," Schilders writes. "But then they really did not know him! Nothing would make him do that, only death."

"John always knew he was going to die in Africa," says his niece, Mary Mahoney Weaver. "It was his home."

Before his journey to Kenya, Kaiser's home was his parents' dairy farm near the town of Perham, in northern Minnesota. Although the family struggled financially, they were resourceful. The four Kaiser children grew their own vegetables and played with homemade toys. As a young boy Kaiser learned how to hunt and fish, good preparation for the rugged life of a missionary. "John never had comfort," recalls Kaiser's cousin, Michaela Dasteel. "He did not want comfort."

At 13, Kaiser left the farm for St. John's Preparatory School, a Catholic boys' boarding school in Collegeville, Minnesota, 200 miles away. His parents strongly believed in giving their children a Catholic education, regardless of the considerable sacrifices.

His old St. John's classmate Durenberger remembers Kaiser as "a big, gangly farm boy who wasn't afraid of anything." He was captain of the football and track teams, set the school's pole-vaulting record, and was a talented artist and star student.

"He was a normal kid with exceptional talents," remembers Kaiser's sister, Carolita Mahoney. "Wherever he went, people wanted to be around him. But he was a loner. He would just as soon have been out hunting in the woods."

Kaiser entered Collegeville's St. John's University in 1951 with the intention of studying English literature and becoming a teacher. But even then he suspected he might be facing a different sort of future. "God calls you to become a priest," explains Mahoney. A devout Catholic like Kaiser could not ignore God. But, she adds, "He put off answering the calls."

"It was a real sacrifice for him to become a priest," says Dasteel. "He loved women."

Kaiser left college in 1954 and enlisted in the peacetime Army, where he spent three years as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. He jumped out of airplanes, slept in the woods, and developed a taste for adventure that he didn't think he could satisfy as a parish priest.

"John had a real fear of being a diocesan priest and being sent to a big city," Mahoney says. As Dasteel puts it: "He was a country guy; the problems of middle-class Americans would have gotten him down."

Soon after Kaiser's return to St. John's in 1957, a Dutch priest from the St. Joseph's Missionary Society paid a recruiting visit to the college. More commonly known as Mill Hill after its headquarters in England, it is the largest of the missionary orders. "The recruiter talked about the wildlife of Africa," remembers Father Bill Vos, a St. John's classmate who later worked with Kaiser in Kenya. "That got John."

Mill Hill sent Kaiser to St. Louis to begin his seminary training at SLU. He graduated in 1960 and went on to England to finish his studies, but he insisted on returning to St. Louis for his ordination in 1964. He'd made friends with several local families and the bishop. It felt like home.

That autumn he boarded a freighter for the two-month voyage to Kenya.

On the afternoon of April 18, 2001, two FBI agents arrived at Carolita Mahoney's home in Underwood, Minnesota. It was not the first time they had visited. Immediately after Father John Kaiser's death, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Johnnie Carson, had arranged for the FBI to join the Kenyan police and the CID in the investigation. Carson was afraid that the Kenyans would try to protect President Moi and paint Kaiser's killing as something other than a political assassination.

Mahoney cooperated with the agents, telling them everything she knew about her brother's life. She wanted justice—and resolution. After eight months of investigating, they brought her an 81-page document titled "The Final Report into the Death of Father John Kaiser." She grabbed the report and turned to the final summary page. She noticed the agents did not linger to see her reaction. "They were out the door so quickly it was like they knew I was not going to be happy," she recalls.

"The manner of the death of Father John Anthony Kaiser is more consistent with a suicide than a homicide," she read. "This suicide resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."
The FBI report, a devastating glimpse into Kaiser's "deteriorating" mental state, focused on the final 96 hours of his life in Nairobi. It said colleagues described him as "out of sorts," "tense," "scared," "exceptionally nervous" and "haunted." He was seen crying at Mass and spent nights awake with a shotgun by his side, and when he did sleep, "Father Kaiser could be heard calling out the names of prominent Kenyan politicians." The report continued: "He confides that he thinks he is being followed." He told his bishop that "death was near."

Mahoney stood in the doorway, shocked and angry. Devout Catholics did not commit suicide, especially not Catholic priests. "Anyone who knew John would know that report was ridiculous."
Says niece Mary Mahoney Weaver: "They said he was mentally unstable because he cried during Mass. He cried many times when he was very moved."

Kaiser himself had suspected that he might be murdered and that someone would try to cover it up; he'd seen it before, when other priests' deaths were attributed to unfortunate car accidents. Shortly before he died, he wrote in an open letter to his family and friends: "I want all to know that if I disappear from the scene, because the bush is vast and hyenas many, that I am not planning any accident, nor, God forbid, any self-destruction."

Kaiser's family immediately grasped the implication of the FBI's conclusion. Suicide was a mortal sin, a violation of everything Kaiser stood for as a Catholic priest. "It was a smudge on his name," says Weaver.

"John loved Africa from the minute he got there," Michaela Dasteel says. Kenya won its independence from Great Britain in 1962, two years before Kaiser arrived, and he was excited to help build the new nation. After several years of training, he took up his first parish among the Kisii people, in the high plains of the Rift Valley.

Father Kaiser had to build a congregation from nothing, Father Vos recalls. In the beginning, there wasn't even a church. Kaiser led Mass under a tree. "It was grassroots evangelism," says Vos. As his flock grew, Kaiser began to build churches and schools and proved himself an effective, economical contractor. "He would use the local materials," Vos remembers. "He was very clever. He'd cut down trees and get the people to haul stones."

His physical strength amazed the Kisii. "Once a group of men was trying to raise a huge tree for the center post of a church," Weaver recalls. "John was determined to get the thing done. But it got late and everyone went home. When they came back the next morning, the post was up. He never said how he did it. They considered him superhuman."

Kaiser's happiest times were on hunting trips with the tribe. "The Kisii were traditional hunters," Vos says. "They were proud to have a priest who connected with them on that level."
"He lived very simply," Vos adds, "like African people do." Aside from his motorcycle, all of his possessions could fit in a sack. His family would send him underwear, socks, and deodorant, but he'd give it all away. "He didn't need it," says Weaver.

"You rarely saw him down," says Weaver. "He could find joy in the simplest things." On visits home, he would devour bowls of ice cream, quote lines from the movie Fargo in a Minnesota accent, and sing his favorite song, Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy." A week before his death, Kaiser wrote home to say he hoped he and his family could "all meet again and have a fishing trip up in the border waters of northern Minnesota, canoe country. The best time would be late August or September..."

But there were at least two periods in Kaiser's life, according to the FBI report, when his natural exuberance deserted him.

In 1969, Mill Hill reassigned Kaiser to its mission near Albany, New York, where he served as a rector, guiding other young men who hoped to join the order. His superior was an older priest who had served the parish for many years. Soon after Kaiser arrived, he noticed that money appeared to be missing from the parish's coffers. He announced that he would ask a friend, a CPA, to check the books.

"Soon thereafter," the April 2001 FBI report read, "Father Kaiser traveled to New York City. While there, Father Kaiser was taken into custody by the New York Police Department and taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Father Kaiser had resisted the NYPD officers because he believed there was nothing wrong with him. He subsequently learned that [the other priest] had filed a report stating that he (Father Kaiser) was mentally impaired, possessed a gun, and had gone to New York City." Mahoney went to Bellevue to visit him and found him under heavy medication.

Kaiser agreed to voluntary commitment so his insurance would pay for treatment, the report continued, "and stated it would be a good opportunity to rest."

The real problem, Mahoney maintains, was not Kaiser's mental condition, but widespread corruption within the Albany parish. "There were things amiss in that place," she says. "There were problems—not with John, but with someone in so-called authority."

Mahoney arranged for Kaiser's release from the hospital, and Mill Hill sent him back to Africa. He had no further mental-health issues until 1980, when, on a visit home, he began to feel agitated and had trouble sleeping. His family took him to see a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and prescribed lithium. Kaiser took the medicine until he returned to Kenya later in the summer of 1980 and no longer felt he needed it.

Weaver believes Kaiser was suffering from culture shock. "He came back here," she says, "and everything was so different. He never had a problem in Africa."

"There was a lot of misinterpretation of his behavior in the FBI's analysis," Mahoney adds.

Kaiser's life as an ordinary missionary priest came to an end one night early in 1993. He'd recently been transferred to a new parish in the central Kenyan highlands, just east of the Rift Valley. Driving along a mountain road, he saw a group of Kikuyu tribespeople trudging through the chilly rain. Kaiser stopped to ask them where they were going. To a refugee camp in Maela, halfway up the mountain, they told him. The government had just confiscated their land in the valley and they had nowhere else to go.

Like nearly everywhere else in Kenya in the early 1990s, the Rift Valley had been the battleground of a bloody tribal war. In the past, the Kikuyu people had leased farmland from their Maasai neighbors. The arrangement benefited both tribes, and they lived together in relative peace. But in 1992, just before Kenya's first two-party election, some of the Maasai began stealing cattle from their Kikuyu tenants and attacking Kikuyu farmers for violating the terms of their leases. The Kikuyu fought back. War broke out, and some entire villages were decimated. The government intervened and seized the Kikuyu's land.

Kaiser volunteered to serve as chaplain in Maela. After several months in the camp, he began to realize that the tribal war was not the dustup over cattle rustling and land leases that it first appeared.

Daniel arap Moi had been the president of Kenya since 1978. He was a popular leader at first, but as time went on he began to resort to more menacing measures to maintain political power. By the early '90s, says Durenberger, "the Moi government was rotten to the core."

"Moi was a dictator," says Dasteel. "He had any opposition tortured or murdered. Ballot boxes were stolen. Anyone who tried to run against Moi got killed." One of Moi's favorite methods of eliminating his rivals was to stage car "accidents" in remote locations.

The 1992 election was particularly crucial for Moi. For the first time since becoming president, he was facing a real political challenge. In 1991, in order to continue to receive Western aid, he reluctantly agreed to allow multi-party elections, even though he believed multiple parties would lead to increased tribal warfare.

The parties were indeed split along tribal lines. The Kikuyu did not support Moi. In order to prevent them from voting, Moi staged a tribal war, hiring thugs to pose as Maasai and attack the Kikuyu. By 1993, when Kaiser became chaplain of the Maela camp, Moi had been re-elected president, and 30,000 Kikuyu had lost their homes and were living in squalor.

"The people were in shock," says Carolita Mahoney. "They had to live in plastic huts. The U.N. provided rations, but they were starvation rations. John would secretly load up his truck with powdered milk and maize and soybeans so they would have something to eat. He got in big trouble."

Kaiser appealed to the U.N. to improve the conditions at Maela, but nothing changed. Kaiser believed it was because the U.N. was afraid to antagonize Moi. Looking to shame the relief organization into changing its mind, he took the case to the press. Soon the missionary priest became a national figure—and a target of the Moi government.

"He didn't welcome the attention," Mahoney says. "He was happy being a pastor. He didn't recognize the danger. The Kisii were not having the same problems as the Kikuyu. But he felt he should have spoken up sooner. The most important thing he remembered from seminary was the time a priest had asked his class what was the most important virtue a priest should have. The students said things like humility and kindness. The priest slammed down his hand on the desk and said, 'No! It's courage! If you don't have courage, you will never be a good priest.' John lived it."

It was because of John Kaiser that stories about the harsh conditions at Maela began to appear in American papers. Facing international embarrassment and, more important, the loss of foreign aid, Moi decided to close the camp and disperse the Kikuyu refugees. Government soldiers arrived in Maela on Christmas Eve in 1993.

They came in trucks to haul the human cargo away to empty stadiums and open fields. Kaiser refused to leave. He herded the women and children into the church and stood guard at the door to protect them. For his efforts, he was beaten and dumped out in the bush to die. Somehow he survived. But that was only the beginning.

For the rest of his life, Kaiser was harassed by agents of the Kenyan government. They tailed his car at night and threw rocks through the windows of his house. Once, says Vos, the Kenyan police caught him in the bush and held a gun to his head. Kaiser told them, "Shoot me and my troubles are over, but yours are just beginning." They let him go.

The church began to worry about Kaiser's safety. Bishop Colin Davies reassigned him to Lolgorien, a remote parish in the green, hilly Maasai territory near the Tanzania border, and warned him to "go easy." But easy wasn't Kaiser's style. Though he had great respect for Pope John Paul II, he was impatient with the church bureaucracy and believed his first loyalty was to his parishioners.

"John could be quite stubborn when he wanted to be," says Mary Mahoney Weaver. "He was disappointed that people could be so absolutely cruel and disrespectful of life."

So in 1998, when Moi organized a tribunal called the Akiwumi Commission to look into the causes of ethnic violence, Kaiser was determined to testify. He assembled documents and traveled to Nairobi, where he spent several weeks sitting outside the courtroom waiting to be called. When he finally did take the stand in February 1999, his testimony caused a sensation. He claimed the government had instigated the tribal clashes, and he named names: Minister of Defense Julius Sunkuli, Cabinet member Nicholas Diwott, and President Moi himself.

"In the constitution of Kenya, it's written that you cannot defame the president," Vos explains. "John publicly said Moi should be indicted in the world court at The Hague for crimes against humanity, and he volunteered to testify. It was not the best way to ensure his future."

Kaiser knew what he was getting into, says Bishop Cornelius Schilders, who was then the regional superior of Mill Hill. "He said, 'They may well kill me for this, but I am prepared to die for the truth, because God's people are being trampled on and we have to speak,'" Schilders writes in an email. "He was particular in mentioning names, including the president's. He did so because if one remains general, nobody will take it to heart and nothing will change."

The Akiwumi Commission struck Kaiser's testimony from the record—not that it mattered. The commission never bothered to release a report. Meanwhile, Kaiser had found another crusade. Two girls in his parish claimed they had been raped and impregnated by Sunkuli. Kaiser encouraged them to take legal action against the minister, the second most powerful man in Kenya.

By now, Kaiser knew his life was in real danger. A sympathetic government security agent warned him that plans had been made for his assassination. "He was more and more stressed," Vos says. "He was on guard more and he kept his gun with him when he slept."

In the autumn of 1999, the Kenyan government found a perfect excuse to expel Kaiser from the country: He had neglected to renew his work visa. But Kaiser went into hiding, moving from place to place—including a convent, where Vos says the nuns lied to protect him. The church and the U.S. State Department intervened, and the Kenyan government issued Kaiser another visa.
But why didn't he take the opportunity to leave Kenya while he still could and save his own life? "He was afraid to come home," Dasteel says. "He was afraid he wouldn't be able to get back into the country." Besides, he had spent more than half his life in Kenya; he was more African now than American. "He was happiest in Kenya," says Weaver.

Dasteel believes that Kaiser martyred himself to save Kenya. Although the two girls succumbed to government pressure and dropped the rape charges against Sunkuli, the case damaged Sunkuli's reputation enough that he lost the 2002 presidential election.

"If Johnny hadn't done what he did," Dasteel says, "Sunkuli would have succeeded Moi and the corruption would still be going on. He didn't want to die. He loved life. But I think he thought that maybe he could make a difference."

Three days before he died, Father Kaiser traveled to Nairobi at the summons of the papal nuncio, or representative of the pope. Kaiser was afraid that the church was about to order him to leave Kenya, and he wept as he recited his last Mass in Lolgorien. To the other priests who saw him in Nairobi, Kaiser appeared to be on edge. His moods changed abruptly and he wasn't sleeping.

"They said he was paranoid," says Weaver. "Well, he was beaten and attacked and his house was ransacked. They said he wasn't sleeping. Well, yeah. He had rocks thrown through his window. Of course he was paranoid. He knew he was skating on thin ice. In that report, there was not one comment or statement by anyone who remotely knew him."

Mahoney says Kaiser's mood swings could be easily explained: "John thought the nuncio was going to send him home because he was going to get himself killed. Instead the nuncio asked him for advice about who should be the next bishop in the Ngong diocese. He wanted advice from someone the people respected. John was delighted."

Kaiser left Nairobi for Lolgorien the evening of August 23, 2000. Only a few hours of daylight remained. The Nakuru police commander Andrew Kimetto described Kaiser's final hours to The Nation, based on crime-scene evidence. Kaiser's truck was hijacked and driven off the main road into the forest. He was pulled from the truck and forced to kneel and say his final prayers. An assassin then shot him in the back of the head. The killers drove the truck back to the Naivasha-Nakuru Highway, dumped his body in the ditch, and disappeared.

A month after Kaiser's death, FBI agents traveled to Kenya to interview the Naivasha police and the coroner who performed the autopsy. Their final report relied most heavily on the opinion of Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a gunshot expert in Texas. Di Maio, though, did not examine the body, and, of the many photographs available, none showed a clear view of the head wound. Also, the FBI's "behavioral analysis unit," which deemed Kaiser suicidal, had never met him and only reviewed his medical history, which they conceded was incomplete.

"I'm not severely critical of the FBI," Mahoney says, "but I wouldn't recommend those investigators for anything."

Kaiser's family and friends are convinced the investigation was a sham. "Someone else was calling the shots," Durenberger says. That someone else, he believes, was the U.S. State Department.

In early 2001, the U.S. was preparing for the possibility of war with Iran. On the Indian Ocean, the Kenyan harbor of Mombassa would be a strategic location to hold ships and aircraft carriers. "I am convinced that a deal was made between the U.S. government and the Kenyan government," Bishop Cornelius Schilders writes. "The price for the use of the harbor was John Kaiser and the explanation of his suicide."

Durenberger used his connections to get in touch with Carson. "I asked what the State Department was going to do. He said, 'Nothing.' He wasn't going to rock the boat. It ticked me off. Till the day I die, I am going to believe that my Department of State and my Department of Justice played a role in the decision to cover up for the people responsible for John's death."
Father Tony Chantry, the general superior of Mill Hill, offers a more blunt assessment: "The FBI colluded with corrupt members of the Kenyan government."

The Catholic Church and then-Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone both condemned the report and began pressuring the governments of Kenya and the United States to launch an inquest into Kaiser's death. The Kenyan courts finally began the inquest in 2003, after Moi had been swept from power. It dragged on for more than four years, with frequent recesses and a change in the magistrate halfway through. Some 112 witnesses gave testimony. The magistrate called the FBI agents to the stand three times, but they never appeared or gave an explanation for their absence.

Mahoney believes Kenya's inquest probe was far more complete than the "official" one by the FBI. "So many people who should have been interviewed came forward at the inquest," she says.

On August 1, 2007, the inquest finally came to an end. Kenyan Magistrate Maureen Odero ruled that John Kaiser did not commit suicide, thus rejecting earlier findings by Kenyan authorities and the FBI that he shot himself in the back of the head with a shotgun. Kaiser was murdered.
Kevin Foust, the FBI agent who led the investigation, offered but two words last week when asked to square his determination of suicide with the findings of the inquest: "No comment."

"The wonderful thing about this whole thing is that there are thousands—thousands—of Kenyans who absolutely knew John was murdered," Fran Kaiser, the priest's brother, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "He had been their greatest advocate for years. Their hope for any justice was bashed, but now it is resurrected again."

Mahoney, though, is not optimistic about the Kenyan government's chances of ever finding her brother's killer. "It's a cold case," she says. "Whoever pulled the trigger is probably dead themselves."

Four thousand people attended Father John Kaiser's funeral on August 31, 2000. They packed the basilica in Nairobi and stood in the street outside. Pigeons circled the rafters of the cathedral—"like the Holy Spirit," Mahoney says—as the crowd sang the missionary anthem, "Here I Am, Lord." As Kaiser himself had requested, his body was laid to rest under a fig tree in Lolgorien. His family covered the grave with a protective layer of cement.

In Kenya today, the American missionary remains a national hero. Children are named after him. "Every August 24 is celebrated like Martin Luther King Day here," says Father Vos. "He's a focal point for anyone working for peace and justice in that country."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A sad time

For families of missing, waiting hurts most

Pioneer Press Press
Article Last Updated:08/03/2007 11:41:32 PM CDT

The waiting started with something as mundane as a dropped call. But since Peter Hausmann's cell phone connection went fuzzy at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, his wife and children have been in agony.

"You don't want to hear any bad news, but you wish you had news," said Hausmann's 14-year-old son, Andrew.

Heading into the third day after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, though, some families have conceded that the only news left about the missing must be bad.

The waiting hurts the most.

Do they begin to grieve, or do they hold out hope?

What Hausmann's daughter Justina, 16, longed for: "Answers. Why this happened. To see him."

"Some people are hopeful, but I think the hope is, they will have information," said Scott Palmer, a psychologist and volunteer counselor at the American Red Cross family support center at the Holiday Inn Metrodome in Minneapolis.

At least seven people were unaccounted for Friday in the wake of the catastrophe.
Among the missing:

Sadiya Sahal, a Minneapolis nursing student who is five months pregnant;

Hana Sahal, her 20-month-old daughter;

Greg "Jolly" Jolstad, 45, of Kanabec County, a construction worker whose compact loader plunged into the Mississippi River;

Peter Hausmann, 47, of Rosemount, a former missionary who met his wife of 17 years in Kenya;

Christine Sacorafas, 45, of White Bear Lake, an active member of St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis.

Hausmann was on his way to St. Louis Park to pick up a friend for dinner when he called his wife, Helen. He complained about the molasses-slow gridlock that had cars creeping along at 5 mph.

Then the line went dead. Hausmann's family tried calling him back several times. He never answered.

His Rosemount home has drawn neighbors, family and friends helping run the house and take the family's minds off of the catastrophe. Four friends who happen to be priests held Mass on Thursday evening in Hausmann's honor.

It should have been a joyous week: Hausmann had just learned the government of Kenya had ordered a new investigation into the 2000 shooting death of his friend, the Rev. John Kaiser.
The Mass was tough, Justina Hausmann said.

"People talked about him in the past tense, and I wasn't ready to hear that," she said.

At the Red Cross station, the mood from Thursday to Friday changed from hope to distress, said Alan Brankline, a disaster and mental-health social worker. Families and friends have been wrestling with a range of emotions, he said.

"There's some anger," Brankline said. "They're angry because they're looking at their life in a whole new different way."

But that anger doesn't appear to be directed toward the bridge's troubled history, said Palmer, the psychologist.

"I think people think it's a horrible, freak accident," he said. "They want to find out eventually what happened."

By Friday afternoon, Dorothy Svendsen had no word about her son, Jolstad, a Mora native and construction worker for Progressive Contractors Inc. Many people, including Svendsen, presumed her son couldn't have survived the wreckage.

The waiting "isn't easy," said Svendsen, of Hinckley. "We're coping."

Sahal, 23, was driving her young daughter in a white Toyota Highlander on Wednesday evening on her way to visit her nephew, a family member said. She moved from Somalia to the United States in 2000 and graduated from Washburn High School in Minneapolis.

Sahal's husband, upset about her disappearance, went without sleep the first two nights. He hasn't been able to bring himself to speak about his wife.

His despair grows as the hours pass with no answers.

"It's a race against time," said Omar Jamal, a spokesman for the family.

Sacorafas, the White Bear Lake woman, was heading to her church near Lake Calhoun to teach children Greek folk dancing. She called another parishioner shortly before 6 p.m. to say she was stuck in traffic on I-35W, said the church's pastor, the Rev. Paul Paris.

The San Diego native moved to Minnesota one or two years ago, Paris said. At a service Friday night in preparation for the Dormition of the Theotokos - or the passing of the Virgin Mary - parishioners prayed for an intervention.

"A miracle is not looking very good right now," the pastor said before the service. "We're all trying to hold onto hope that she'll be all right."

Rick Alonzo contributed to this report.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Video coverage

Check out this video.

Kaiser was murdered

Kaiser was murdered

By Lucianne Limo
East African Standard

It is now official that Fr John Anthony Kaiser was murdered. This became obvious after a Nairobi court tore into shreds, a theory propagated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that the Catholic priest committed suicide.

"The suicide theory is replete with loopholes and missing links. The theory raises more questions than answers. On the whole this court finds the FBI report to be seriously flawed, superficial and lopsided," Nairobi Magistrate Mrs Maureen Doer said on Wednesday.

And the court ordered fresh investigations to establish conclusively the identity of Fr Kaisers killers, concluding that there exists sufficient evidence to show a third party involvement in Kaiser’s death.

The court also ordered the police to investigate Mr Francis Kantai, a catechist at Lolgorian Church known to be Fr Kaiser’s close friend at the parish.

Court wants three game rangers to be investigated

The magistrate ruled that Kantai knows more than he testified in court and needs to be interrogated further to establish what role, if any, he may have played in the death of the priest.
The court also wants three game rangers in Mara Serena, Mr Samuel Kortom, Mr Joseph Kupasar and Mr Daniel Suya to be investigated.

Odero said both Kupasar and Suya admitted that rangers are routinely issued with rifles as powerful as the one that killed Kaiser.

The court faulted the FBI saying they approached the investigation casually as evidenced by their failure to consider any alternative theory to explain Kaiser’s death.

Psychiatrist faulted over mental illness theory

The court also gave the Former Internal Security minister, Mr Julius Sunkuli, a lifeline when it trashed evidence linking him to Kaiser’s death.

The court further rubbished evidence that Kaiser killed himself using his own gun noting that the police and FBI made no Ballistic report available.

The magistrate also faulted psychiatrist, Dr Frank Njenga, for concluding that Kaiser suffered from mental illness without having treated him Kaiser, a Mill Hill Missionary was found dead on the night of August 24, 2000, at Morendant junction on the Nakuru-Naivasha highway.

It was murder

It was murder, Kaiser probe rules

Publication Date: 8/2/2007
Daily Nation

Catholic priest Antony John Kaiser [sic] was murdered, contrary to claims by the world-renowned American Federal Bureau of Investigations and Kenyan police that he killed himself.

An inquest into the priest’s death trashed FBI’s report advancing the “Suicide Theory” saying it was based on a preconceived notion that the priest killed himself and not any concrete evidence.
It also ruled out possibilities of the priest having been mentally unstable saying no tangible evidence was tabled in court to back the claim.

But Chief Magistrate Maureen Odero said she could not — on the basis of evidence tabled before her in the inquest — point out with certainty who the priest’s killers were.

Consequently, Mrs Odero recommended that police carry out a fresh round of investigations to ascertain those behind the priest’s grisly death seven years ago.

She zeroed in on a number of people who should be investigated to determine whether or not they played any role at all in the death of Fr Kaiser.

Fr Kaiser met his death on the night of August 23-24, 2000 and his body was found at the Morendant Junction along the Naivasha-Nakuru High way. The cause of death was massive head injury due to a gun shot to the head.

According to the court, those who should face investigations are a Catholic Church Catechist Francis Kantai, who was serving under Fr Kaiser at the Lolgorian Parish within Ngong diocese at the time. Though it was stated that Mr Kantai was close to Fr Kaiser, his behaviour in the period leading to the priest’s death raised many questions.

His evidence was in the court’s view “unreliable, evasive and contradictory” besides a personal admission that he lied to the FBI. He also disappeared after Fr Kaiser’s death and never attended his funeral, as expected of a friend.

Others to be investigated are Kenya Wildlife Service game rangers at the Mara game park Samuel Kortom, Joseph Kupasar and Daniel Suya.

Their involvement in the disappearance of a rifle and a magazine from Mara Serena armoury around this time, raised many questions that beg for answers.

Loss of firearm

“It is not lost to the court that the rifle is a high powered firearm similar to the type used to kill Fr Kaiser. It is highly suspicious that close to the time Fr Kaiser meets his death a mystery still exists as to the loss of a firearm and a magazine from the Mara,” Mrs Odero observed.

But the inquest cleared former Cabinet minister Julius Sunkuli who it had been claimed in the inquest was unhappy with the priest’s involvement with two girls — Ann Suwayo and Florence Mpayei — who had lodged rape complaints against the Kilgoris MP.

“If Sunkuli wanted to eliminate a person because of these allegations, then in the court’s view, he would have targeted the girls themselves or his named political detractors and not Fr Kaiser who was not the source of the allegations.

“It is probably true that Sunkuli may have been unhappy that Fr Kaiser supported these girls but then many other people offered support to the two girls including the officials at FIDA who filed cases on behalf of the girls. Why would he target Fr Kaiser whose role in the whole thing was peripheral?” the court posed.

While trashing the suicide theory, Mrs Odero gave the FBI a tongue lashing, dismissing their report as “replete with loopholes and missing links and raised more questions than answers.”
Despite the priest being an American citizen, the FBI took a very casual approach to this investigation as evidenced by their failure to consider any alternative theory to explain Fr Kaiser’s death and their ignoring very blatant anomalies, Mr Odero said.

“On the whole this court finds the FBI report to be seriously flawed, superficial and lopsided.
She said her decision was based on evidence at the scene such as the state of the priest’s pick-up which bore signs of a knock with another vehicle and the body posture. Key police witnesses also testified that the scene looked interfered with.

Following the decision which is likely to pave way for fresh investigations, the court granted a request by Catholic’s lawyer Mbuthi Gathenji that the exhibits tabled before the inquest be preserved.


We don't have a great deal of information, but the Kenyan magistrate overseeing the inquest has ruled that John's death was unequivocably murder and is ordering new investigations to determine who the involved person(s) were.

Amen! The truth at last!

While this was something all of us already believed, the validation and governmental admission is a wonderful bonus!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

FBI agents fail to attend inquest of murdered priest

By Francis Njuguna
Independent Catholic News, published March 6, 2007

The inquest into the death of Fr John Kaiser, which was scheduled to re-open yesterday in Nairobi, did not take place, as three witnesses from the American FBI failed to appear.
The three senior FBI officers are: Tom Neer, a specialist in behavioral analysis; Dr Vincent Di Maio, a forensics specialist; and Bill Corbett, who has worked in counter terrorism.

When the inquest resumed briefly, Kenyan senior state counsel, Mungai Warui said the three officers had communicated early last month that they would be in Nairobi on 5 March, to testify at the inquest. But last week the FBI, sent a note saying that the would not be available to attend, due to "other unforeseeable assignments" the senior state counsel, explained to the principal magistrate, Maureen Odero. He said they would only be available in "mid March"".

Ms Odero said: "Mid March is a bit vague. We cannot keep on waiting for them as they keep putting up new dates. They need to be concrete as to when they can avail themselves for us, for we are running short of time and we cannot wait for ever".

She ordered the senior state counsel to communicate with the FBI and request the officers to appear on 19 March, when the inquest would resume.

Defence lawyer for the Catholic Church, the Mill Hill Order and the family of the late Kaiser, Mbuthi Gathenji, complained that the FBI seemed to be continually putting off coming to Nairobi to testify.

He said: "I'm not happy with the way, the FBI keeps on giving us new dates. They have failed to honour this court. We might be forced to seek for diplomatic powers of intervention to have them in Nairobi."

Mr Gathenji said the inquest would close immediately the FBI testifies.

Father Kaiser, a 67-year-old priest, worked in Kenya for 36 years. His advocacy for human rights led to his expulsion from the country in 1999, but the government revoked its decision after an outcry in the Kenyan media and appeals from the country's bishops.

On 23 August, 2000, Fr Kaiser was found shot dead at Morendat, 85 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. Newpaper reports said he had angered some members of the Moi government after testifying against two Cabinet ministers in an inquiry on tribal clashes.

The first police officers on the scene thought he had been murdered, but in 2001 the FBI ruled his death a suicide, and the Kenyan government agreed.

The Kenyan Bishops' Conference almost immediately dismissed the FBI results and questioned why it considered the information of only the government pathologist, not the three additional doctors it had sent to the scene to collect evidence. They said that, based on ballistics reports, suicide was a physical impossibility as the bullets had been fired from some distance behind him.
The bishops said that if Father Kaiser committed suicide he "involved himself in rather difficult contortions while in the process."

They said that, although a doctor's report said Father Kaiser had bloody finger marks inside his pants pockets, the FBI failed to explain how he got his hands into the pockets after allegedly blowing off his head. They also said no reasons were given as to why photographs taken from the crime scene were blurred, and no explanation was given as to why fingerprints were found on the priest's vehicle but not on the gun.

Moi lost the presidential election in December 2002, after 24 years in office. Several months later the Kenyan government ordered the inquest.

FBI risks being shut out of Kaiser inquest

Lucianne Limo


East African Standard, published March 5, 2007

An inquest into the death of Mill Hill Missionary Fr John Anthony Kaiser may close without the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) detectives giving evidence.

A Nairobi court has given the detectives from the United States spy agency until March 19 to appear before it and testify or risk being shut out.

The detectives were expected to take to the witness stand on Monday to defend their theory suggesting that the Catholic cleric committed suicide.

"An inquest, like all litigations, must come to a close. The court cannot wait indefinitely for these witnesses to come," Senior Principal Magistrate, Mrs Maureen Odero, warned.

The FBI agents expected to testify include the investigating officer, Mr William Corbett, behavioural analyst, Mr Thomas Neer and the chief medical examiner, Dr Vincent Di Maio.
State counsel, Mr James Mungai, told the magistrate that the detectives failed to attend the court due to another engagement elsewhere.

Lawyer Mbuthi Gathenji, for the Catholic Church, pleaded with the magistrate not to close the case until the FBI agents render their evidence.

Fr Kaiser was found dead at the Morendat junction on the Nakuru-Naivasha road on August 24, 2000.

Consequently, the FBI and CID were detailed to investigate the matter.

The Catholic Church has since rejected the FBI theory insisting that the missionary was killed.

Kaiser inquiry: Sunkuli laments

Kaiser inquiry: Sunkuli laments
Publication Date: 2/22/2007
Daily Nation

Former minister of State Julius Sunkuli took the dock yesterday denying killing Mill Hill missionary John Kaiser, seven years ago.

Testifying in an inquest, the former minister said allegations that he had a motive to kill Father Kaiser were untrue, adding that such a story was mooted with a sole purpose of damaging his reputation and ruining him politically.

“Although we had differences with Fr Kaiser, I had no reason to kill him,” Mr Sunkuli told principal magistrate Maureen Odero.

In a private prosecution, the Catholic Church has insisted that Mr Sunkuli plotted to kill Fr Kaiser. The church says the differences related to the minister’s acts of sexual molestation against school girls in Kilgoris and his involvement in the tribal clashes in Trans Mara.

Sexual scandal

Yesterday, Mr Sunkuli said the Fr Kaiser and the Federation of Women Lawyers’ (FIDA) push to implicate him with sexual scandal was aimed at extorting money.

“I believe the sexual abuse allegations were heaped up on me by Fr Kaiser and Fida with a view to extort me,” Mr Sunkuli said.

Mr Sunkuli made the remark in an inquest in which the court is inquiring into the circumstance leading to the death of the missionary.

The missionary’s remains were discovered at the Morindet junction in Naivasha on August 23, 2000.

Mr Mbuthi Gathenji, representing the church, said Fr Kaiser was killed at the height of growing differences over Mr Sunkuli’s involvement in sexual molestation allegations that involved two girls.

The former minister for State said the sexual molestation that faced him in 1999 and 2000 were a scheme of his political opponents, who were ought to ruin his chance of being appointed the vice-president then.

“There was a lot of information that President Moi wanted to appoint me to the position of the vice-president then. I think my political opponents wanted to use the allegations to tarnish my name and ruin my chance,” Mr Sunkuli claimed.

Financial support

Education minister George Saitoti and his Immigration colleague Gideon Konchella and Narok North MP William ole Ntimama are alleged to have offered financial support to a women’s group in Trans Mara to demonstrate in Nairobi against the former minister.

Mr Sunkili said he complained to Ngong Bishop Collin David over Fr Kaiser’s activities that were affecting him but the prelate informed him that the priest was a difficult man to deal with. The hearing continues.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

FBI Betraying Fr. Kaiser ... Again

By Stefan Lovgren

On the morning of August 24, 2000, an American Catholic priest, John Kaiser, was found dead at a Kenyan roadside, killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Suspicion quickly fell on the Kenyan government. During the 36 years he spent in the East African nation, Father Kaiser, a Minnesota native and former U.S. Army paratrooper, had earned a reputation as a tireless champion of the poor and a bold critic of corruption among the country's power elite. He had recently accused the powerful minister for internal security, Julius Sunkuli, of systematically raping young schoolgirls over several years.

A U.S. congressional resolution called Kaiser's death an "assassination." To appear transparent in its handling of the case, the Kenyan government enlisted the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was the first time the FBI had been dispatched abroad to investigate the death of a single U.S. citizen. After a seven-month-long probe, in which 145 witnesses were interviewed, the FBI concluded in an 80-page final report that Kaiser had killed himself.

The church was outraged, dismissing the investigation as a mere cover-up. (It's also worth nothing that, according to Catholic doctrine, committing suicide constitutes the gravest of sins.) The Kenyan public, well-aware of its government's sordid history of covering up political murders -- even of clergy members -- was similarly incensed. Early whispers of suicide from top officials had been dismissed by Kenyans remembering the unresolved 1990 murder of Robert Ouko, the Kenyan foreign minister and corruption whistle-blower. Initial police reports then absurdly suggested suicide, even though Ouko's body had been tortured and shot twice before being dropped from a helicopter and set on fire.

Detectives from Scotland Yard were brought in to investigate Ouko's death, but their efforts were blocked at every turn and the inquiry did not even produce a final report. With the Kaiser investigation, there is reason to believe that the Kenyan police led the FBI down a path toward suicide. Witnesses were coached by Kenyan police before being interviewed by U.S. agents. FBI investigators were encouraged to focus on leads highlighting Kaiser's erratic behavior in the 96 hours prior to his death, while ignoring forensic evidence and expert opinions rendering suicide impossible. In the end, it appears from its report that the FBI built its forensic case solely around the testimony of a Texas medical examiner who reached his conclusion of suicide by looking at three dozen blurry photographs, some of which had been taken at a crime scene that had been severely compromised.

Did the world's pre-eminent law enforcement agency kowtow to the will of the Kenyan government? If so, why? The explanation may be floating in the murky waters of geopolitics. Kenya is considered a haven of stability in a part of the world that includes basket cases like Sudan and Somalia. It has been an important U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism. The FBI cultivated a strong relationship with Kenyan police during the investigation of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, who championed the Kaiser case, said he had evidence there was pressure from the U.S. State Department on the FBI to go easy on the Kenyans. Kaiser may have been sacrificed to keep diplomatic relations smooth.

But in 2002, Kenya's ruling KANU party lost the national election. The new government soon announced a public inquest into the death of Father Kaiser. This inquest began more than three years ago and is still continuing in a Nairobi court. Witnesses once afraid to share information have stepped forward. Their testimony has helped piece together a different picture of what may have happened to Kaiser that fateful night. A security guard says he saw two men following Kaiser and pulling him out of his car before killing him.

Yet one witness has been conspicuously absent at the inquest: the FBI. The bureau has so far ignored requests by the court to testify. It considers the conclusion of its final report just that -- final. But only the FBI can shed light on some key evidence in the case. It still has in its possession crucial exhibits. No ballistics information has been made available. Experts who reportedly carried out such analysis have not been identified, nor have their statements been taken. The FBI should also be able to explain why some key witness testimonies given to its agents never made it into the official file.

It is troubling that Father Kaiser's killers may never be brought to justice -- indeed who killed him may never be known -- but the tragedy is compounded by the arrogance shown by the FBI in ignoring requests to appear at the ongoing inquest. The findings in itsreport may never change, but the FBI has a responsibility to at least explain how it arrived at its conclusion. Father Kaiser's legacy of truth and justice deserves no less.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Government transfers magistrates in surprise shake up

Government transfers magistrates in surprise shake-up

From the East African Standard

January 16, 2007

By Judy Ogutu

The Government has transferred several magistrates.

Seven among them were serving in various courts in Nairobi.

Sources at the Judiciary told The Standard that those moved include Senior Principal Magistrate, Mrs Julie Oseko, who was in the limelight last month for sentencing to death three robbers.

The three, Mr Richard Kayago Maeta, Mr Elias Sikuku and Mr Peter Wafula Mulati had attacked Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o and his wife Njeeri three years ago at Norfolk apartments in Nairobi.

Sources said Oseko had been moved to Molo.

Senior Principal Magistrate, Mrs Margaret Wachira, who is handling the abuse of office case involving suspended Central Bank of Kenya governor, Dr Andrew Mulei, is also said to have been transferred.

Sources said Wachira was moved to Makadara Law Courts.

Mrs Maureen Odero, who is presiding over the inquest into the death of Catholic priest, Fr John Kaiser, is reported to have moved to the Milimani Commercial Courts. She sat at the Nairobi Children’s Court.

But speaking to The Standard on phone, Judiciary spokesman, Mr Dola Indidis, could not confirm the transfers. Others reportedly moved were Makadara acting chief magistrate, Mrs Grace Nzioka, Kibera Senior Principal Magistrate, Mrs Catherine Mwangi, Nyeri Chief Magistrate, Mrs Reuben Nyakundi, among others.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Daily Nation: Kaiser inquest resumes

Fr. Kaiser death inquest resumes after break

Story by Francis Thoya
Publication date: 1/8/07

An inquest into the death of Mill Hill missionary Fr John Anthony Kaiser resumes in Nairobi today. The court is this week expected to inquire into a theory that the cleric committed suicide.

Detectives from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who are behind the suicide theory, are expected to take the witness stand to defend their findings. The Catholic Church has rejected the FBI stand, insisting the missionary was killed.

The Nation has established that the court has issued witness summons for the FBI detectives to appear.

Lawyer Mbuthi Gathenji, who is representing the Catholic Church, said summons had already been sent to the US embassy through the Attorney-General’s Office.

“It is our hope that the FBI detective will appear before the inquiry to shed light to the circumstances leading to the death of Fr Kaiser. The evidence is crucial to the inquest,” the advocate said.

Fr Kaiser was found dead near Naivasha Town on August 24, 2000. His body was found under acacia trees, near his pick-up truck.

Following protests by the Catholic Church and human rights groups, the Government ordered a detailed investigation, which was conducted by FBI and the Criminal Investigations Department.

Special agent

However, in 2001, the FBI concluded their investigation, indicating that Fr Kaiser committed suicide.

At a news conference on April 19, 2001, the assistant special agent, who led the investigation, Mr Thomas Carey, said: “During the course of this investigation, no indications of crime developed.”