American Priest Who Was Murdered For Defending Kenyans

On Christmas Eve 1994, the Moi government was forcefully closing down a camp hosting internally displaced people in Maela, Ngong.

One man was not going to watch this happen and protested bitterly, which led to his arrest, beating and apparent release into the bush by the Kenya Police.

Father John Kaiser, an American, had been based in Kisii and had only been in the Ngong Diocese for slightly more than one year.

Father Kaiser with his parishioners in a past mass in Kisii

Following this incident, Kaiser was transferred to Lolgorian Parish. Kaiser was a harsh critic of the Moi administration, accusing it of fueling the 1991-92 ethnic violence in the Rift Valley.

In 1998, Kaiser testified before the Akiwumi Commission where he accused Moi and other senior government officials of being responsible for the ethnic violence.

His testimony was quashed but the Akiwumi report, which was never implemented, confirmed his accusations.

In 1999, Fr Kaiser was in the news again, this time having rescued two girls who had accused a Moi Government Minister of rape.

In November of that year, Kaiser briefly went into hiding in Kisii after the government tried to deport him. It took the intervention of then US Ambassador Johnnie Carson for him to be granted a new work permit.

In March 2000, the Law Society of Kenya honoured Kaiser with the Human Rights Award for his continued rights campaigns, including testifying at the Akiwumi Commission.

Father Kaiser

An undated image of the beloved priest, Father Antony Kaiser

Five months later, on August 23, 2000, a butcher, later identified at an inquest as Henry Kombo, headed to a market near Naivasha and found Kaiser lying by the side of a road, a gunshot wound to the head.

Lying next to Fr Kaiser just near his car was a shotgun with one shell fired. FBI investigators called in by the Kenyan government concluded that the priest had committed suicide.

β€œIn its 81-page report, issued on April 21, 2001, the FBI concluded that based on forensic evidence and prior history of mental health and erratic behaviour, Fr Kaiser committed suicide,” a US Embassy cable dated August 31, 2007 indicated.

At the time, US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger was informing Washington of the decision by a Kenyan court, asking the government to open further investigations.

Following a request by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, the government allowed an inquest into the death of Fr Kaiser. The inquest ended on June 12, 2007, after hearing from 111 witnesses.

Father Kaiser

The sombre scene during the laying to rest of Father Kaiser (file image)

During the inquest, Paul Omuga – then a night security guard at Kenya Nut Company – revealed that there was unusual activity on that road with the same car speeding along the road thrice.

Presiding magistrate Maureen Odero ruled on August 1, 2007, that Fr Kaiser was murdered, and that the β€˜suicide theory’ was based on a preconceived notion.

She recommended further investigations; they have never been conducted.

American Priest Who Was Murdered For Defending Kenyans

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