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Monday, February 20, 2006

Posthumous human-rights award for slain missionary in Kenya

Feb. 20 ( - The Kenya Human Rights Commission has conferred a posthumous award on the late Father John Anthony Kaiser, the American-born priest who died violently in Kenya in 2000.

At ceremonies on February 18, the Human Rights Commission named Father Kaiser as recipient of its 3rd annual Human Rights and Democracy Award. The Mill Hill missionary priest shared the award with Wangari Maathai, the environmental activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Father Kaiser, whose death is the subject of a continuing investigation clashed frequently with Kenyan government leaders as he sought justice for the poor. He was particularly energetic in his efforts to stop the eviction and expropriation of rural tribesmen, which he saw as linked to the plans of corrupt government officials to enrich themselves and their associates.

Last week the vicar general of the Ngong diocese, Father Francis Mwangi, told investigators that Father Kaiser had been warned to keep out of disputes over land titles in the Rift Valley area where he worked. He had also clashed with a powerful government minister, Julius Sunkuli, when he protected women who charged that Sunkuli had raped them. Father Kaiser was found dead at a roadside crossing in August 2000. Originally termed a suicide, the death is now being probed by Kenya's new government, in answer to persistent pleas from Church officials who suspect the American missionary was murdered.

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