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Kenya Unsolved Murder: The Murder of Father John Kaiser

Updated on January 19, 2017
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Father John Kaiser knew his life was in danger. Not only did he felt it but knew without a doubt he would be murdered. It was as a result of the gut feeling he felt that Kaiser decided to write a letter to his family and friends. The letter read: “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.” Also, he resonated the same warning in his book, If I Die.

On August 24, 2000 Fr. Kaiser body was found lying dead below two acacia trees at Morendant, which is located at the junction of Nakuru-Naivasha road. On what would have been the back of his head was a big gaping hole from a shotgun bullet. The body was found at six in the morning. The first police officers who arrived at the scene thought Fr. Kaiser was murdered. Were they wrong in coming up with such a conclusion when FBI thought it was not the case?

Carolita Mahoney, Kaiser’s sister, received several visits from FBI. After the FBI had conducted investigation into the murder of Kaiser, which took a period of eight months, they presented Mahoney the final report, an 81 page document titled ‘The Final Report into the Death of Father John Kaiser.’

The deduction of the FBI was Kaiser had committed suicide. They relied on reports of Kaiser’s friends, family members and colleagues. In the different scenarios Kaiser exhibited actions which indicated he was not mentally stable. Nonetheless, his sister didn’t believe his brother committed suicide. One instance they indicated in the report was when Kaiser was seen crying during the mass. Another is he would always sleep with a shotgun by his side. During sleep people would hear him calling out the names of Kenyan politicians who held high positions in the government.

During his over thirty-five years of missionary work in Kenya before his murder, Fr. Kaiser had come close to death several times. He had been beaten and tortured. He knew very well voicing his discontent or the ‘evil working’ of the then Moi regime would land him in trouble. Nonetheless, he wasn’t a man to be swayed into cowardliness. He believed he was standing up for the truth, fighting for the justice of the people of Kenya.

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Fr. Kaiser believed President Moi was the one who staged tribal war between the Maasai and Kikuyu. In actuality, the Kikuyu were living in the Maasai land. They were living peacefully with the Maasai as they had agreed with the Maasai on staying on their land. Moi knew the following year, 1992, the country would hold General Elections on December. He needed votes. However, the Kikuyu population was not going to vote for him. In addition, as Kaiser believed, Moi wanted to grab Kikuyu’s land in the Maasai area for his own benefit. Thereby, he sent hooligans so it would look it was the Maasais who attacked the Kikuyus. They were drove out of their homes and their houses torched.

It was clear the Kikuyu tribe was not going to vote for him. The Kikuyu population he targeted were those living in Maasai land. After the General Election was held in December 1992, over thirty thousand Kikuyus lost their homes. They were now squatters. The camp they were living in was in poor condition. They were living in plastic huts. Despite the U.N providing rations, they were not enough. Kaiser decided to do something about it. He would load up his van with food such as soybeans and maize. For his generous act he found himself in trouble.

Despite Kaiser appealing to U.N to improve the condition of the squatters at Maela’s Camp, nothing was done. It remained the same. He decided to take the matter in front of the cameras. This was the beginning of his trouble with the government. The international community was made aware of the deplorable living conditions of the squatters. This saw the Kenyan government losing foreign assistance. This led to Moi closing the camp. On December 24, 1993 soldiers arrived at the camp in trucks. The squatters were hauled in the trucks and dispersed in open lands and in stadiums that were empty.

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Fr. Kaiser refused to leave. He decided to usher children and mothers in the church. He stood at the door to prevent the soldiers from coming in and taking the rest of the squatters. For his trouble, he was beaten and left to die in the bush. He survived.

In 1998 during the Akiwumi Commission which was investigating the reason for the violence that erupted and closing of the Maela Camp, Kaiser presented himself to testify. He finger pointed ministers in the Moi government as well as the president itself. His statement was nullified.

The above were some of the instances Fr. Kaiser stood for what he believed was the truth.

It is believed, several years later after FBI’s investigation, Kaiser was hijacked while in his truck. His vehicle was driven off from the major road into the nearest forest. He was forced to kneel down, told to say his last prayer and shot at the back of his head. Afterwards, his body was dumped in a ditch and his truck driven to Nakuru-Naivasha Highway and left there.

Why was the FBI’s report in contrast with what appeared to be Kaiser was murdered? Four officers from FBI traveled to Kenya a month after Kaiser was murdered. They interviewed the coroner who did the autopsy and the Naivasha police. They relied heavily on a gunshot expert living in Texas, Dr. Vincent Di Mario. The expert never inspected Kaisers’ body. Instead he relied his judgment on the photographs he was handed. On top of that the photographs did not provide a clear sight of the head injury. This coupled with FBI’s investigation on the different behaviors Kaiser exhibited led to the conclusion Kaiser had committed suicide.

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In 2003 an inquest into the murder of Kaiser commenced. This was after Moi was swept out of power in December 2002. The inquest ran for four years. The inquiry began in Naivasha but was afterwards shifted to Nairobi. Magistrate Maureen Odera was the presiding judge. Over one hundred witnesses testified, nevertheless, the FBI never appeared in court for the three times they were summoned by Ms. Maureen. The enquiry came to an end on August 1, 2007. The magistrate was unwavering Fr. Kaiser was never killed in the place where his dead body was found. He was killed somewhere and the body dumped where it was found by a butcher who later called the police.

Why did the FBI do a shoddy investigation? There have been many theories as to why the FBI came up with the final analysis Fr. Kaiser committed suicide. It is believed the FBI knew Fr. Kaiser was murdered but something led them to lie he was not murdered but committed suicide. Two pathologists conducted autopsy on Kaiser’s body. One was signed up by the human rights group and the other one by the church. According to the pathologists the bullet entered the back of his head through the right ear at a distance of which he couldn’t be able to do so through suicide. So, how is it the FBI, one of the largest intelligence agencies in the world, who have the best equipment in the world come to such a conclusion? Especially if you consider they relied on people’s reports and photos of the dead priest.

According to an article by Daily Nation Newspaper, something was fishy. It is stated, “A lawyer, Mbuthi Gathenji, was enlisted by the family and the catholic Church. As Mr. Gathenji saw it, something crucial was missing from the scene where Fr. Kaiser’s body was discovered: the pellets and wadding that his shotgun would have discharged when he was killed.” It is further noted the above two were not found in the cadaver of his skull. They were not found in the surrounding area including nearby shrubs.

Up to date his case still remains unsolved.

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