Monday, May 30, 2011

Andrew Hausmann: Following in his father's footsteps

'Give more of yourself' is among advice 35W bridge collapse victim gave Harvard-bound son
Updated: 05/30/2011 10:45:26 AM CDT

Deciding whether to void his commitment to Cornell for Harvard would have been enviable if it weren't so agonizing for Rosemount prodigy Andrew Hausmann. Choosing the country's most prestigious university meant ditching another Ivy League heavyweight, and football, for the all-state running back.

As tough as this was, it wasn't much, relatively speaking, for an 18-year-old who has been shaped but not defined by a national tragedy that hit home.

Strive for excellence. Gain from experience. Give more of yourself. Enduring lessons imparted by his father, Peter, a former missionary and software engineer who drowned trying to save other victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, that strengthen Hausmann as one of Minnesota's hugely talented high school students embarks on his life's journey.

"I can't help but think about my father when I think about giving everything you have," Hausmann said over dinner this month. "Never accept anything less than your best. At the point where you failed, you've peaked. The most taxing times of your life are where you have the most opportunity to grow."

Harvard, here comes one gifted athlete, scholar, performer and survivor.

"Andrew reminds us so much about what it means to be the best person you can be," gushed Steve Albaugh, choir director at Rosemount High School.

Athletics director Mike Manning added: "For Andrew to do what he's done athletically, academically, in band and choir, has been an incredible example to other students at our school."


Such proclamations would be easy to write off as hyperbole until one examines Hausmann's resume, which flows with achievements from stage, classroom and field: all-state in football and track; excellence rating as a trumpet player; 3.86 grade-point average; Olympic-style weightlifting champion; best-in-site singer and superior rating as a soloist.

He is training to compete in the long jump and 400 meters for the Crimson. After perfect scores in mathematics on the ACT and SAT exams, Hausmann has narrowed his undeclared major to that and four other fields - chemical engineering, economics, philosophy or mechanical engineering.

Hausmann also plans to fulfill pre-med requirements.

"I really want to do pre-law, too, but I can't," he said longingly, as if worried about being branded a slacker.

The ambitious curriculum feeds an insatiable appetite for knowledge rooted in his relationship with his father and God - a deep faith Peter Hausmann cultivated for his family while building schools and churches and working to stop the spread of AIDS in the late 1980s as a Catholic missionary in Kenya, where he met his wife, Helen.

The couple married in 1990 and moved from east Africa to the Twin Cities to raise a family. Andrew's siblings include his older sister, Justina, a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, and David and Theresa, who are in seventh and fifth grades, respectively.

Peter Hausmann grew up on a South Dakota ranch and considered becoming a priest like his older brother, Leo. Computer science was not as high a calling, but it was the vocation that suited Peter's intellect. It allowed him to work abroad before settling into a job as a security specialist at Assurity River Group in St. Paul.

On summer drives to South Dakota to visit family, Peter would engage his grade-school-age son on numerous subjects.

"My dad fed me information when I was little and I would just listen to what he had to say because he had been everywhere," Andrew recalled. "He talked about when he had lived in Israel, when he was in Scandinavia doing programming on this ATM-like machine.

"I remember distinctly just sitting in the back of the car and just thinking. I would ask questions and he wouldn't be like, 'Oh, you'll learn about that next year. Oh, you'll talk about this in high school or oh, I hated that stuff.' He would show me," Andrew continued.

"Last year in chemistry, we were talking about electrons and structures and I remembered my dad showing me that three years earlier and was, like, 'Ah, now I know what you were talking about.' "


For each member of the Hausmann family, there is a clear demarcation - the life they knew before Aug. 1, 2007, and the lives they live today.

Andrew was 14 and a week shy of his first high school football practices when his father died.

Peter was stuck in traffic and talking to Helen on his cellphone about picking up groceries when the call abruptly dropped.

His empty van was pulled from the Mississippi River four days after the bridge plunged into the water, a disaster that killed 13 people and injured more than 100. His body was not recovered until Aug. 9.

Peter survived the initial collapse, escaped his van and the twisted wreckage and scrambled to shore, according to police. An autopsy revealed he suffered a broken shoulder and fractured rib, likely from falling debris.

Witness accounts relayed by a police chaplain to the Hausmanns said Peter swam through the turbulent waters attempting to rescue a child strapped in a car seat in another submerged vehicle.

"He had his arms outstretched when he died. That's how they found him," Andrew said.

Most likely, Peter was trying to rescue Sadiya Sahal of St. Paul and her 22-month-old daughter, Hanah. Their remains were discovered near Peter's body.

"Can you think of a better way to die?" Andrew asked. "You can say he didn't actually save her, but what did he do as a result? If you look at how many people have looked at his death as a catalyst for their own lives, it's not just me or my family. It's co-workers, people just reading his story and how he was an inspiration.

"I'm just like, 'Wow.... Wow.' "

Dave Bierly, a freshman football coach and counselor at Rosemount High, recalls hearing Andrew eulogize his father at the funeral with the command and poise of a senator.

"I turned to the other coaches who were sitting there watching this kid speak so eloquently and thought there's no way he's 14," Bierly said.


Andrew said his church and the Rosemount community rallied to support his mother and siblings. Donations helped her pay down the mortgage and buy groceries and school supplies. But the mourners and charity receded, leaving Helen, a homemaker who has no driver's license, to rely on Social Security benefits to raise three kids.

Eventually, the I-35W Victims Compensation Fund relieved their economic crisis, but the loss of the patriarch shifted more responsibility to Justina and Andrew, including:

"Things as small as waking up and having clean dishes, groceries and taking out the trash. Entertaining the younger ones. Helping us with homework, putting us to bed, punishing us," Andrew said. "My sister needs clay for a school project at 10:30 at night. I have homework myself and want to go to bed. I am the one who goes and gets it."

Andrew grieved but he did not isolate himself, or become embittered about how his father died and let his grades suffer. Rather, his drive intensified, Bierly said.

"Even though he dealt with it better than you can ask any kid to deal with it, it was still a very difficult time," his counselor said. "I think he's a very thoughtful, rational thinker who's thought it through and determined that anger would not do anything positive. He determined he was going to make his dad proud, and I think he knows his dad is proud."

Helen said her husband instilled a work ethic and selflessness in all of their children but believes Peter's spirit is strongest in her oldest son.

During the summer of 2008, Helen and the children visited her family in Kenya for the first time without Peter. Typhoid was ravaging the village, and Andrew's grandparents were lamenting the scarcity of clean drinking water.

"They said they needed a well, and Andrew got up and said, 'I'm bored. Where do you want it, Grandpa?' " Helen recalled. "I remember laughing my head off. Well, within two weeks I saw water, and he said, 'I did it.' People are now drinking good water, and nobody from my family has had typhoid.

"That's when I saw Peter's spirit in Andrew."


In conversation, Andrew reveals an intensity that is both intriguing and intimidating. He rarely cracks a smile, and his gaze cuts through pretense like a laser. But he is willing, between bites of a prime rib sandwich and sweet-potato fries, to engage on topics ranging from the NBA draft to African history, the Minnesota Orchestra to the human genome.

He was accepted into Harvard, Cornell and Brown and initially committed to Cornell, which offered him a chance to continue playing football.

"I thought my decision was made," he said.

But during a final recruiting visit to Cambridge, Mass., in January, Andrew was seduced by Harvard's tradition and its proximity to Boston, broad social network, unmatched academics and the chance to help rebuild a declining track program.

By spring, he made up his mind. He wanted Harvard as much as it wanted him, and there was no turning back.

While track builds bonds among teammates and provides opportunities to flourish individually, the tradeoff means no more opportunities for Andrew to experience the collective triumphs and failures of a football team after Rosemount finished runner-up to Wayzata in last year's Class AAAAA Prep Bowl.

"That's going to be a tough one for me," said Andrew, who led an Irish rushing attack that gained more than 2,700 yards in 2010. "Right now, I'm in the process of accepting it. I know I'm not going to miss out with track. But I'm going to have times where I'm like, 'Gosh, I really want to go out there and hit somebody and score some touchdowns.' "

Andrew holds the Rosemount record in the triple jump at 44 feet 10 inches. Though the 400-meter individual and relay are his marquee events, he won the 200-meter individual at last week's South Suburban Conference meet and is expected to compete in several individual and team events at the state championships in June.

"The leadership he's brought to both football and track --- he's not driven by ego at all," Manning said. "He's the first one to practice and the last one there. The person who works hardest in the weight room. The kid who comes up to somebody who's struggling and puts an arm on his shoulder and says something positive. He's a wonderful role model."


In March, Andrew was named one of four winners of the Minnesota State High School League's Triple "A" Award for excellence in academics, athletics and arts.

He has played in band for four years but only recently studied music literature and sharpened his voice for concert performances and solo competition.

Last month, he earned the first perfect score from a judge who has appraised singers for 20 years, according to Albaugh.

"He sang for the judge, and the judge cried," Albaugh said.

After four years of grieving and preparing for college, Andrew is eager for new challenges and embraces the uncertainty of his future. He knows harder work and more sleepless nights await, and he often thinks about the path his father chose as a young man.

Peter Hausmann was 26 in 1985 when he followed his calling to Kenya to help refugees displaced by disease and a corrupt government. His friend, the Rev. John Kaiser, was shot to death in 2000 under suspicious circumstances. The week of the bridge collapse, Peter had just learned the Kenyan government had ordered a new investigation into the shooting.

"Lives on the line, stories on the edge of death, he brought that to our family. That outlook on life that you give everything you can, and you take what you can, too," Andrew said. "Gain what you can from experience and, if nothing else, give everything."

Friday, September 03, 2010

Kenyans can no longer tolerate impunity

Kenyans can no longer tolerate impunity


Posted Friday, September 3 2010 at 17:09

We have just celebrated the tenth anniversary of the death of Fr John Kaiser. Six months after his passing on, the FBI released a fraudulent report suggesting suicide as the cause of death.

That judgment was clearly more influenced by politics than truth. It took seven years before chief magistrate Maureen Odera ruled in a public inquest that the priest had been murdered. Yet his killers walk free.

The American Government has just lectured Kenya on impunity. Their European colleagues have joined in the chorus. Every time I hear American leaders instruct Kenya on international justice, I think of John Kaiser’s betrayal by his own government’s agencies.

Besides, it is preposterous that the USA speaks of Kenyan obligations to the ICC yet Washington itself has resisted all pressure to become a signatory to the Rome statute.

Kenya does, however, have international obligations as a member of the ICC, and these cannot be overruled by African Union resolutions irrespective of what the Vice-President thinks.

However, it matters little what the international community think of Mr al-Bashir’s visit, but it matters a great deal what the six million Kenyans who approved the new Constitution feel about its violation on the very day of its promulgation.

Impunity must be confronted. What do religious leaders have to say about sharing a dais with a man responsible for the slaughter of 300,000 of his own people?

They also shared cocktails with Kenyans who may be indicted by the ICC before the year is out. What message and leadership will they give when indictments are released?

We are constantly told that the enforcement of justice is threatening peace in Sudan and Uganda and that Kenyan indictments will lead to a resumption of violence in the Rift Valley.

I don’t buy this argument as it reminds me of the Charles Taylor campaign slogan of the mid-’90s: “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I will vote for him.” Such misguided notions create tyrants.

Many are already predicting a peaceful 2012 general election based on the successful referendum. We should be hopeful but cautious. The General Election of 2002 and the recent referendum were peaceful events mainly because the outcome was predictable and conclusive, while the elections of 1992, 1997 and 2007 were close affairs marked by violence.

It would appear that the 2012 vote will be very close and may even require a run-off. Consequently, the chances of violence are considerably higher. Prosecution of the principal perpetrators from the 2007 violence offers the best way forward to a peaceful 2012 vote.

The two principals have constantly thwarted all efforts to establish local tribunals so we have had to turn to the ICC as a court of last resort. The ICC has a staff of 586 and a budget of $100 million, but in seven years it has failed to convict a single individual.

Yet its imminent indictments can send a clear warning that we can no longer tolerate impunity. A new AG, Chief Justice and fresh faces at the KACC could also send strong signals that the new Constitution is primarily the means to tackle impunity in every sphere.

John Kaiser did not die in vain.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another video

Archbishop: Reopen investigation into Father Kaiser's murder

Archbishop: Reopen investigation into Father Kaiser’s murder
August 24, 2010

Ten years after the murder of Father John Kaiser, the Church in Kenya is calling upon authorities to reopen their investigation into the American missionary’s murder.

“As we converge here today to mark the tenth anniversary of the late Father Kaiser, we pray hard that one day, the truth will be told as to who killed our beloved brother,” said Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth of Kisumu.

“On behalf of those who continue to seek justice for Father Kaiser, I call upon the government of Kenya to do all in its power to find, try, and punish those responsible for Father Kaiser’s murder,” added Father Liam Cummins, superior general of the Mill Hill Missionaries, of which Father Kaiser was a member. “To this end, I strongly urge the government of the United States of America to ensure that the FBI cooperate fully in these new investigations.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stones left unturned on Kaiser killers

Stones left unturned on Kaiser killers

STEPHEN MUDIARI | NATION Ms Mary Gakui from Lolgorian in Trans Mara carries a portrait of Fr John Kaiser during a peaceful demonstration to mark the 10th commemoration of his death last week. A special Mass was held last Friday.

By Giuseppe Liguori
Posted Monday, August 23 2010 at 21:00

On August 24, 2000, the body of Fr John Anthony Kaiser was found at 6am near two acacia trees on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway.
Somebody had put a bullet in the head of the American Mill Hill priest.

Fr Kaiser was born in Perham, Minnesota, USA, on November 29, 1932. In 1960 he came to Mill Hill to study theology and on July 11, 1964, he was ordained a priest at St. Louis.

After his ordination Fr Kaiser was appointed to Kisii Diocese; in 1993 he was transferred to Ngong Diocese, where he remained until his death.

During the last years of his life, he lived surrounded by controversy, clashing with high-level government figures over his fight for the poor. In 1998, he testified before the Akiwumi Commission and accused the government of atrocities against the population.

In February 2009, in a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Goffard shed new light on the murder of Fr Kaiser.

This is how he described the American missionary:

“The dead man was an American citizen and a leading dissident — a former US Army paratrooper who lived without electricity in one of Kenya’s poorest corners, survived on game meat and had come to regard himself, after 36 years on the continent, as an African. He had not only denounced (then President Daniel) Moi but had fought to bring rape charges against one of his top ministers...

“In life, Fr Kaiser had been a troublemaker, an obstinate and single-minded man who railed against church passivity and clashed with his bishops, his missionary bosses, his fellow priests. Now, it was possible to ignore the rough edges and complicated history. Now, Catholic leaders were declaring him a martyr to the faith, a man whose crusade against his adopted country’s dictatorial regime had ended in his assassination”.

According to Goffard, Mr. Johnnie Carson, at that time the US ambassador to Kenya, had a prominent role in the aftermath of Fr Kaiser’s death.

On August 24, the day that his body was found, Mr Carson went to the office of the Attorney General and asked that the FBI should be allowed to investigate.

The FBI had forensic expertise, he argued, and its presence would show that the Kenyan regime had nothing to hide. The AG said he would need to consult. Of course, the President would have to approve. In less than 24 hours, President Moi gave his go-ahead.

Four FBI agents fanned out across the country, accompanied by plain clothes men from the Kenyan police. It was to be a joint investigation. The Kenyans would translate the words of Kiswahili-speaking witnesses.

They would provide helicopters to reach remote villages. They would sit close during interviews. This presented an obvious problem.

Who would risk telling the Americans anything in the presence of Kenyan policemen, for decades an integral part of Moi’s apparatus of fear?

Back in the US, in September and October 2000 both houses of Congress passed resolutions condemning Fr Kaiser’s “assassination.”

Two independent pathologists — one enlisted by the church, the other by a human rights group. Their conclusion: the shot that obliterated the back of Kaiser’s head had entered behind his right ear from a distance of at least six inches and as much as three feet.

Since it seemed impossible for Fr Kaiser to have pointed the long-barrelled gun at himself from such a range, murder was the only explanation.

However, on April 19, 2001, FBI agents stood at a news conference at the US Embassy in Nairobi alongside Mr Carson, Kenyan police and the country’s AG.

The Americans praised the Kenyans for their cooperation and gave their verdict: an emotionally troubled Kaiser had killed himself.

Reopened the case

This conclusion was clearly against the ballistics evidence and also against the character of a strong man who wrote: “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”.

Fr Kaiser liked to quote from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, a defence of classic Catholicism in which the author assesses suicide as “the ultimate and absolute evil.”

When Mwai Kibaki won the election in December 2002, a new government was in place and, at the request of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference, this new government reopened the case.

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.

They weren’t found in the remains of his cranium or, despite searches over a wide radius, in the surrounding dirt and shrubs.

The inquest begun in 2003 and many witnesses were heard: one of them was Mr Julius Sunkuli, a minister who was accused of raping two girls, Florence Mpayei and Anne Sawoyo.

At the end of the inquest, presiding magistrate, Maureen Odero, concluded that Fr Kaiser was murdered, ruling that the “Suicide Theory” was based on a pre-conceived notion, but stated that “she could not — on the basis of evidence tabled before her in the inquest — point out with certainty who the priest’s killers were”.

But she cleared Mr Sunkuli.

“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 wondered.

Dr Giuseppe Liguori works for the Consolata missionaries in Nairobi as director of the Consolata Project Office.

Catholics mark priest's death

Catholics mark priest’s death
By NATION correspondent
Posted Sunday, August 22 2010 at 22:14

Worshippers thronged the St Xavier Catholic Church in Naivasha Town to commemorate the death of Father John Kaiser.

The faithful sang and danced during the special Mass dedicated to the priest.

During a sermon, Father James Kinuthia of the Nairobi Diocese urged Christians to learn from the past and strive to do justice.

“There is no fear in doing what is right and just,” he told the congregation.

He further said that Father Kaiser was being remembered because of his good deeds and selflessness.

“He strove to do what is just and was a selfless person,” said Father Kinuthia.

The country, he noted, could only move forward by embracing positive changes and rectifying the past misdeeds.

On August 24, Father Kaiser’s body was found in a ditch by the roadside on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway, with his shotgun by his side.

Challenges facing young people in 21st century

Colleagues Home & Abroad Regional News





John Paul II evangelizing parish team workshop entered it second day in Nakuru with special mass dedicated to the slain human rights activist Fr John Anthony Kaiser. JP2 Spiritual Director, Fr Richard Quinn ruled out that Kaiser killed himself.

Fr Quinn explains to the congregation in Nakuru St Mary’s pastoral centre’s chapel how Fr Kaiser was a dedicated human rights activist and servant of God-PHOTO/ Fr Omolo, AJ

Fr Quinn who was the main celebrant said he worked with Kaiser in Kisii and the way he knew him he would have not killed himself. Father Quinn was refuting the FBI’s report in 2001 that referred several times to circumstantial evidence indicating Kaiser, a member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, had suffered from manic depression, thus leading to his suicidal act.

The workshop began exactly at 9 am on varieties of topics and themes which included going through the resolutions of the second Africa n synod, the just passed Kenya constitution and reports from parish teams.

In the afternoon Fr Quinn took the participants through challenges of young people today in the world of secularism and humanism, especially in schools and institutions of higher learning. Among the participants include Kenyatta University students who also shared their experiences on such challenges.

Rebecca Kemunto (left) and Catherine Kimani (right) explain to the participants how secularism is slowly deeply entering young people in Kenya, especially in schools and institutions of higher learning- PHOTO/ Fr Omolo, AJ

Secularism as best understood is process slowly gathering momentum, not only in the West but other continents as well. It is the world where the scientific method looks at the universe to see what can be measured and quantified and brought under the control of man-The world in which God is kept out of the picture.

The world in which there is a conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.

It is the world committed to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.

A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children without depending on God’s mercy and divine providence.

Thus, secular humanists do not rely upon gods or other supernatural forces to solve their problems or provide guidance for their conduct. Instead they rely upon the application of reason, the lessons of history, and personal experience to form an ethical/moral foundation and to create meaning in life.

The world in which secular humanists look to the methodology of science as the most reliable source of information about what is factual or true about the universe and new discoveries.

According to the latest "Barna Report" issued in October 2007 a disturbing trend is noted among American youth between the ages of 16 and 29. The report says that this group is less inclined to see Christianity as a viable and attractive religion. Some of the reasons stated are that Christianity is old fashioned, hypocritical, too judgmental and overly involved in politics.

It explains why in America today the call for personal responsibility has nearly been replaced by a demand for personal "rights" rather than communion-everyone wants to be alone.

Father Quinn also expressed how this trend has affected the value of marriage. Many young people today do not want to stay in marriage or do not want get involved. That is why there have been a lot of divorce cases, especially in USA and Europe .

People for Peace in Africa (PPA)
P O Box 14877
00800 , Westlands

Tel 254-20-4441372
Website :

Catholics call for renewed investigation of priest's murder

Catholics call for renewed investigation of priest's murder
Friday, August 20, 2010
By Spero News

The Catholic Church in Kenya has made fresh calls ensure the re-investigation of Fr. Anthony John Kaiser murder case, with aims to bring his alleged killers to book.

This was said as the Church, the family and friends of the late converged for the 10th anniversary of his death on August 19

The late Catholic priest, who had worked among the Kenyan people for 35 years, was found dead on the eve of August 24, 2000 along the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway, about 90 kilometres from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Presiding over the memorial Mass to mark the occasion at Nairobi's Holy Family Minor Basilica, Archbishop Zachaeus Okoth of Kisumu Archdiocese and current Chair for the Bishops' Commission for justice and peace, observed that it was depressing to note that ten years down the line, we are yet to know who killed the priest,”"As we converge here today to mark the tenth anniversary on the late Fr. Kaiser, we pray hard that one day, the truth will be told as to who killed our beloved brother," Okoth said

The memorial service, whose theme was: Kenyans appeal to end impunity, was attended by bishops, clergy, religious men and women, the laity, family members of Fr. Kaiser's family as well as friends.

Archbishop Okoth further observed that although one of the Kenya Courts wound up the inquest on the late Fr. Kaiser in August 1, 2007 had recommended for immediate institution of fresh investigation by police in order to fill the blanks and to plug all the loopholes by the court in order to determine conclusively the identity of those who killed Fr. Kaiser, no substantial action had been taken in regards to these findings and recommendations.”

In a statement, read to the congregation by the regional superior of Mill Hill Missionary congregation in Kenya, Fr Liam Cummins, Superior General of the Mill Hill congregation worldwide, Fr Anthony Chantry said it was distressing and disturbing to see that for the last three years, there has been no evident progress in bringing to justice those responsible for Fr. Kaiser's murder.

"On behalf of those who continue to seek justice for Fr. Kaiser, I call upon the Government of Kenya to do all in its power to find, try and punish those responsible for Fr. Kaiser’s murder. To this end, I strongly urge the Government of the United States of America to ensure that FBI co-operate fully in these new investigations," he stressed.

Kaiser's family member, Christopher thanked both the Church, the Mill Hill missionaries, where the late Fr. Kaiser was a member and Kenyan catholic bishops for their commitment on the issue.

He hoped that one day, the truth will come out as to who killed the late Fr. Kaiser.

Mr. Christopher is a nephew to the late Fr. Kaiser. He was accompanied by Kaiser's niece, Susan.

The late Fr Kaiser was vocal about the ethnic evictions in the Rift Valley that finally cost him his life. He was a critic of former President Daniel Moi's regime and came into the national limelight in the 90s when he vigorously resisted the eviction of the internally displaced people who camped at Maela in Narok, following their eviction from Enoosupukia in the country’s spacious Rift Valley region.

The church rejected the findings of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that the missionary had committed suicide. More than 80 witnesses had testified and at least 240 exhibits examined at the judicial inquest into his death that was opened on August 15, 2003 and wound up in August 1, 2007.

Source: CISA

Mill Hill statement

Statement of the General Superior of the Mill Hill Missionaries
delivered at the Celebration of the Eucharist
marking the Tenth Anniversary of Father John Kaiser’s death,
Holy Family Minor Basilica, Nairobi, 19th August 2010

Ten years ago, on 23rd August 2000, the body of a faithful priest, dedicated missionary and courageous prophet was found lying in the dust face up near his pickup some 50 miles northwest of Nairobi. His shotgun lay nearby.

Following a lengthy investigation, conducted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America (FBI), their report concluded that the manner of Fr John Kaiser’s death was “most consistent with suicide and that no other substantive evidence reviewed supported any other conclusion” (Press Release, USA Embassy Nairobi, 19-4-2001).

To those who knew him, admired him, and loved him this conclusion was not just an insult to his integrity but a clear travesty of justice. With the support of numerous people of goodwill and various civil society organisations, the Episcopal Conference of Kenya, the Mill Hill Missionaries and Fr. Kaiser’s family insisted upon a reopening of the case and a reconsideration of the verdict of suicide.

Their demands for justice were eventually answered and an official enquiry was opened. On 1st August 2007 the Chief Magistrate, the Honourable Mrs Maureen Odero, concluded that Fr Kaiser met his death as a result of culpable homicide, and recommended that fresh and comprehensive investigations be instituted immediately by the police in order to identify those responsible.

The court rejected the original findings of the FBI report and directed the Attorney General, the Honourable Amos Wako, to initiate a homicide investigation.
However, it is distressing and disturbing to see that for the last three years there has been no evident progress in bringing to justice those responsible for Fr. Kaiser’s murder.

On 17th August last year, the Attorney General wrote to “The competent judicial authority of the United States of America” with a request for a series of enquiries to be made and assistance to be given in order to enable the investigations by the Kenya Police Officers to be carried out. To the best of our knowledge, there has been no response to these requests and no substantive co-operation offered by the United States of America Police Authorities.

On behalf of all those who continue to seek justice for Fr Kaiser, I call upon the Government of Kenya to do all in its power to find, try and punish those responsible for Fr Kaiser’s murder. To this end, I strongly urge the Government of the United States of America to ensure that the FBI co-operate fully in these new investigations.

This is not only about justice for one good and holy man who stood in solidarity with those who were victims of injustice. It is ultimately about protecting and defending all those in our world who dare to speak the truth to those in power, the thousands of men and women who have answered God’s call to champion the rights of those who are oppressed, downtrodden and marginalised by those in authority who, for their own ends, will use any means to silence their critics.

Fr Kaiser stands tall in the ranks of all those who seek God’s justice in this world. The best way we can honour the memory of this fine priest and great missionary is to continue to press for justice to be done and indeed be seen to be done.

We will not rest in this world until justice and righteousness have found a home in this country and in our world. May God’s Kingdom come!

Rev. Anthony Chantry
General Superior
Mill Hill Missionaries

Kenyans, family gather to remember US Mill Hill priest killed in 2000

Kenyans, family gather to remember US Mill Hill priest killed in 2000

By Francis Njuguna
Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenyan church leaders and friends and family of a U.S. missionary slain 10 years ago gathered at a Mass to remember him and to pray that the priest's killer is brought to justice.

Father Kaiser (CNS file)

Although a 2007 inquest into the death of U.S. Mill Hill Father John Kaiser recommended a fresh investigation into his death, "no substantive action has been taken in regard to these findings and recommendations," said Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth of Kisumu, chairman of the Kenyan bishops' justice and peace commission.

"It's depressing to note that 10 years down the line, we are yet to be told as to who killed our brother" along the busy Nairobi-Naivasha highway Aug. 24, 2000, said Archbishop Okoth.

"We pray hard that one day, the truth will be told as to who killed our beloved brother," he told those in attendance Aug. 19 at Holy Family Minor Basilica.

Father Anthony Chantry, international superior general of the Mill Hill Fathers, said in a statement that it was disturbing to see the lack of progress in finding Father Kaiser's killers.

"On behalf of those who continue to seek justice for Father Kaiser, I call upon the government of Kenya to do all in its power to find, try and punish those responsible for Father Kaiser's murder. To this end, I strongly urge the government of the United States of America to ensure that the FBI cooperate fully in these new investigations," said his statement, read by Father Liam Cummins, regional superior.

Because Father Kaiser was an American, the FBI was called in to investigate his death and theorized that the priest had committed suicide. The 2007 inquest discounted that theory and said the 67-year-old priest was murdered by a third party.

The priest's nephew, Christopher Kaiser, who attended the Mass, told Catholic News Service, "We as family members are not looking to be compensated ... but simply to see that justice is done on the issue."

"Our prayer and hope is that one day, the culprits will be brought to book," he added.

Throughout his 36-year stay in Kenya, Father Kaiser, a native of Perham, Minn., was an outspoken champion of the rights of the poor and dispossessed. He criticized government officials and ministers on several occasions, most notably when giving evidence to a commission of inquiry into politically motivated tribal clashes in the Rift Valley province.

Fr. John Kaiser 10 years later

Remembering Father Kaiser

Kaiser stood firm for the weak

Kenya: Kaiser Stood Firm for the Weak

Noah Cheploen

18 August 2010

Nairobi — Tears well in her eyes when she speaks about the life and times of Fr John Kaiser. Ms Jane Wanjiru Njenga was a cook at the Enoosupukia Catholic Church where Fr Kaiser preached for a couple of years and has nothing but fond memories of the priest who was assassinated 10 years ago.

The priest was found dead a few metres from the Nairobi-Nakuru road on August 24, 2000, with his shot gun beside his body. Grand celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of his death are slated for Thursday at Nairobi's Holy Family Minor Basilica.

"He identified himself with the poor and those in distress and was determined to uplift their lives," Ms Njenga says, sadness written all over her face. "He defended us with his life. Even when he was battered in the night he soldiered on," says Ms Njenga.

Strong-minded, determined, kind-hearted, prayerful and charitable is how she describes Fr Kaiser -- an outspoken critic of the Moi regime. "He was tall and very strong. They needed many police to handcuff him. Fr Kaiser was well built," Mr John Njenga who was once an internally displaced person at Maela camp interjects.

One day, Mr Njenga recalls the local chief summoning the priest into his office and demanding to know from him why he had allowed evictees from Enoosupukia to stay in the church. "But as was characteristic of him Fr Kaiser publicly dismissed the chief," he explains.

A teary Ms Njenga, who cooked for the priest, takes up the story. "Fr Kaiser told the chief that just as he was in charge of the location, he too was in control of the church compound and what happens there."

According to her, Fr Kaiser uttered these words as he defiantly walked away from the administrator. The administrator did not take the action by the priest kindly and in the night police from the chief's camp stormed the church and beat him senseless.

"We are pained by his grisly murder especially considering that we are yet to be settled fully. We have so many problems and I wish he was still alive," says Ms Njenga.

IDPs still crying for justice

The former IDPs are crying for justice 10 years after the death of Fr Kaiser. They were allocated land at Moi-Ndabi settlement scheme but many of them are living in poverty because of the harsh weather conditions there. "When I remember the fertile lands in Enoosupukia I feel bad because this place is rocky and you cannot get anything out of it," says Mr Njenga.

Meanwhile, Nakuru Diocese Bishop Maurice Makumba Muhatia believes that those responsible for Fr Kaiser's death will one day be punished for their actions. An inquest dismissed the suicide theory peddled by the government saying the American priest had been murdered.

On Wednesday, Bishop Muhatia said the Church was still living the dream of Fr Kaiser through a silent but effective method. It had intensified its fight against social injustices by defending the poor. "It is only the methodology which has changed," he said.

He said the church had shifted from active public advocacy by empowering and enlightening the people at the grassroots. "We're still promoting Fr Kaiser's cause but at the level of institutions such as schools and health," he added. "We are well aware that nothing much is going on but the spirit and the desire is being carried out at levels of the church," he said.

Did the US and Moi cut a deal over Fr Kaiser's death?

Did the US and Moi cut a deal over Fr Kaiser’s death?


A Civic Education and Human Rights project officer at the Nakuru Catholic Diocese, Ms Mary Oyath (left), Mrs Jane Wanjiru Njenga who was a cook at the Enoosupukia church where Fr John Kaiser served, and human rights activists stand at the spot where the body of the priest was found on August 24, 2000. The Catholic Church plans to build a chapel at the site in memory of the American priest.

Posted Saturday, August 14 2010 at 21:00

If he had been alive today, Fr John Anthony Kaiser would probably be one of the happiest men in Kenya.

It was this towering, aggressive and compassionate American missionary who brought world attention to the problem of ethnically instigated mass displacements in the Rift Valley.

His determined campaign to highlight what he saw as the government’s role in uprooting members of specific ethnic groups, mainly Kikuyus and Kisiis from their homes to serve political ends, thrust the quiet American into the headlines.

His crusade finally cost him his life. Ten years after he died of gunshot wounds on August 24, 2000, a new constitution will be promulgated three days after the anniversary of his death.

The constitution is designed to help tackle the land problem in the country and make a recurrence of politically instigated violence less likely.

That was the life mission of Fr Kaiser. The circumstances of his death remain shrouded in mystery.

He had left a career in the US military to throw himself into decades of mission work in Kenya. He arrived in Kenya in 1964 after a two-month sea voyage, excited by the prospect of helping to build the young nation.

His first assignment was in Kisii. According to a profile published by the American newspaper, Riverfront Times, Fr Kaiser quickly became well known by the locals for his passion in missionary work.

Father Kaiser built a congregation from nothing, said one of his colleagues and former classmates Father Bill Vos.

His passion and energy was apparent.

“Once a group of men was trying to raise a huge log for the centre post of a church,” his niece, Mary Mahoney 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 had many happy moments hunting with the locals and sharing in their daily rituals.

He had no intention of meddling in politics. In his book titled If I Die, he says that he first encountered the grave injustices perpetrated against the poor villagers whose livelihood depended on small-scale farming when he was based in Kisii.

In October 1986, the priest was travelling from his base to Nairobi. At the intersection to Kipkelion on the Kericho-Nakuru road, he saw men, women and children camped by the roadside. This would leave an indelible mark in his life.

“I saw dozens of trucks and hundreds of people by the roadside with all their worldly possessions – chickens and goats, bed-spreads, pots and pans closely tethered and piled up beside them,” he says in his book which was published shortly after his death.

It was 10 p.m. Families with their young children were huddled in small groups on a chilly evening while the heavens threatened to open up. They had been driven out of their land by government forces.

“Little did I know that this would mark the beginning of a long struggle against the perpetrators of such acts of injustice,” he says in the 120-page book.

Fr Kaiser became a vocal critic of the waves of evictions which were clearly government-backed. He came into national limelight in the early 1990s when he vigorously resisted the eviction of the internally displaced people who had camped at Maela in Narok, following their eviction from Enoosupukia.

At the time, the Kikuyu and Kisii were seen as not supportive of the Moi government. The evictions were viewed as punishment for their failure to back the ruling party.

Fr Kaiser worked hard to ensure that the government resettled the displaced on the land that they had previously been evicted from in the Rift Valley so that they could continue with their livs.

When this did not work, he sought other forums to express the grievances of the displaced families. He wrote letters, some which put him on a collision course with the government. He was banned from entering Maela camp by the authorities.

According to Fr Kaiser’s estimates, there were about 80,000 people who had been forced to Maela camp by the ethnic violence.

“The problem of the displaced people in Kenya is enormous and is a major factor in the slowing down of the economy,” he wrote.

According to him, the number of people displaced by ethnic violence in the region between 1986-1995 was about one million. Fr Kaiser’s activities attracted the attention of the international media.

The displacements in Rift Valley became a source of embarrassment to the Moi government, which was already under pressure to open up political space to keep Western aid flowing.

With pressure mounting, the government was compelled to establish a commission of inquiry into ethnic killings – the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Land Clashes, chaired by retired judge Akilano Akiwumi.

For Fr Kaiser, an opportunity to name and shame the big people in government who he believed had a hand in the killings and displacements had presented itself.

In February 1999, he testified before the commission and submitted what was then seen as incriminating evidence against government bigwigs.

This was to be the final nail in his coffin. Several months later, his work permit expired and the government attempted to deport him declaring that he was a prohibited immigrant.

However, the intervention of the Catholic Church and the US embassy in Nairobi saved him the agony of being ejected out of the country. Threats on his life increased after he gave his testimony.

And, the Latin saying Res Clamat Domino (a thing having been stolen cries out until it is returned to its rightful owner) was his personal motivation.

“When I think of the fertile highlands of the Trans Mara and the many other areas of high rainfall on the Maasai reserve, I hear these lands crying to God for the return of their rightful owners,” said Fr Kaiser.

This was seen by those in government as incitement and explains why the 64-year-old was subjected to State harassment.

Fr Kaiser knew the dangers of speaking out in a country where the iron fist of the Moi regime had left church leadership, the press and even the civil society cowed.

Priest threatened

After he had delivered his evidence before the Akiwumi commission, Sister Nuala Brangan prevailed upon him not to go back to Lolgorien, his base. He maintained that he would overcome the threats on his life.

“Don’t worry, I am a good shot … I’ll shoot a few bullets in the air, and they’ll go running,” he is quoted as saying. Fr Kaiser was licensed to carry a shotgun which he always did.

“Since I have been threatened before, I want all to know that if I disappear from the scene, because the bush is vast and the hyenas are many, that I am not planning any accident, nor, God forbid, any self-destruction,” he said in one of the many letters he wrote to people close to him after he received a chain of threats.

Fr Kaiser knew that many people had been killed in circumstances which were passed off as an accident.

On August 24, Fr Kaiser joined this list of martyrs. He was found in a ditch by the roadside on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway, with his shotgun by his side.

The police immediately said he had been shot, a version which the government later changed to claim that it was suicide. That verdict was later overturned by an official inquest.

But his killers remain at large although the endorsement of a new constitution might at last give the departed priest cause for relief from beyond the grave.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

An American Martyr for Kenya

An American Martyr for Kenya

Father John Kaiser's Witness for Human Rights and an African Constitutional Vote


I write this column with mixed emotions. With the vote yesterday on a new constitution that would decriminalize child-killing and enshrine bigotry, the beautiful and faith-filled people of Kenya face yet another deadly blow from their government and ours. My first emotion is one of dread.

My cousin, Father John Kaiser, was assassinated by the Kenyan government in 2000 for supporting the rights of Kenya’s marginalized poor. He loved the Kenyan people and was martyred while trying to protect them and advocate on their behalf in the face of a violent, corrupt and greedy government. This impending pro-abortion constitution would have grieved him greatly.

Until now Kenya’s laws, despite the corruption of the government, have respected the right to life of every human person. Pre-born human beings have always been protected as equal persons.

But now, my government and my president are spending $23 million to lobby the starving Kenyan people, tempting them with promises of aid and food, in an effort to impose our way of life, our disdain for pre-born children on a culture that historically welcomes children and family as an unmitigated gift.

The pro-abortion Obama administration knows money talks with politicians and it is happy to keep Kenyans in the dark about the horror this will bring. Decriminalized homicide has devastated first-world countries.

Cultural commentators have long spoken of the rise of the Western world’s “walking wounded” – those millions negatively impacted by materialism and the sexual revolution. Father John saw this on his visits back to the United States. He couldn’t wait to get back to Kenya.

Are we so eager to visit our fate on the Kenyans? Americans have witnessed the collapse of the family, the skyrocketing divorce rate, exploding teen suicide and pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted diseases that are ever more prevalent. Here, heartbreak is the norm.

America is once again engaged in the enslavement of Africans, denying their personhood and putting a price on their heads.

This constitution didn’t come out of the abyss. I was hardly surprised when I first heard about it many months ago. I have heard of the plight of the Kenyan people my whole life.

Father John, the man who brought my mother home to the Church, simply by loving her and handing her a book by G.K. Chesterton, was a Mill Hill missionary priest there for 36 years.

When he came home every few years to renew his visa and visit family, I would get to see the man behind the letters. Always writing of his people, the Kiisi, then the Kikuyu at Maela refugee camp and, later, the Massai, Father John grew his own love for these people in us.

He publicly advocated for them in the face of the tyrannical Kenyan government. Specifically he testified against President Daniel arap Moi and a member of his inner circle, Julius Sunkuli. Father John said that Moi and his wife were behind the government instigation of tribal warfare, devastating the tribes to whom Father Kaiser was a missionary. He also testified in court accusing Sunkuli of raping and impregnating young girls in Father John’s parish.

In representing his parishioners, Father John fought for the rights of all people, apolitically. He lived the life of a missionary priest, not succumbing to the oft held misnomer that “poverty” refers only to monetarily impoverished people. He seamlessly ministered to all people who cannot speak for themselves whether they are marginalized Kenyans or marginalized pre-born children.

While home, Father John would speak to his sister of his shame that it was America that was bankrolling the imposition of the culture of death in Kenya. This outsourcing of contraception and abortion on this burgeoning Christian culture scandalized him and threatened his flock.

During those brief visits in the U.S., Father Kaiser would also speak around the country on behalf of Father Paul Marx and Human Life International — an international pro-life missionary organization. His life witness spoke to the truth of the Catholic faith: that advocating for the personhood of all, especially the innocent pre-born, is intrinsically tied up in the call for social justice.

In the 1990s his trips home were more tasking as he witnessed Americans increasingly seduced by materialism and the contraceptive mentality. From Africa his letters grew more worrisome, telling us of the dangers he was facing in retribution for his outspoken advocacy for the rights of the abused and oppressed.

In August of 2000, when he was months away from testifying in front of the World Court, Father John was executed with a shotgun to the back of his head, his body left on the side of a rural road in Naivasha.

I opened this article saying that I have mixed emotions when it comes to the vote on the new Kenyan constitution. I began with dread, but on thinking about Father John, his great faith and his rare ability to love to the point of martyrdom, I know that Kenyans have a great advocate in heaven. Not only is he powerful for the Kenyan people as a symbol of justice and strength, giving voice to their oppression, he is a martyr. His prayers are powerful. His agony in facing death, which Christopher Goffard detailed in his award-winning L.A. Times series on Father John, is truly a reflection of Christ’s Agony in the Garden and submission to the Father’s holy will in death. Father John was criticized for wanting to be a martyr, but it is clear he knew that his was the way of the cross, leading to Calvary.

Now, in the location where Moi and Sunkuli had hoped this upset for human rights would end, Kenyans gather to take a stand against tyranny, injustice and crimes against human rights.

Please, join me in praying for Father John’s intercession on behalf of his beloved Kenya. Father John would not have stayed silent. Let us storm heaven with our prayers that all human beings may be protected as persons everywhere – most especially at this time in Kenya.

Johanna Dasteel is American Life League’s senior congressional liaison. She travels the country working for the recognition of all human beings as persons under the law.

Copyright © 2007 Circle Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

St. Cloud Visitor article

‘The Collar and the Gun’ recounts life of Father Kaiser
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 13:25 | |
10th anniversary of death sparks new book, commemorations

By Nikki Rajala
The Visitor

Dean Urdahl didn’t plan to write a book about Father John Kaiser, the Mill Hill Missioner with roots in central Minnesota who was killed in Kenya 10 years ago. But once he’d read a series of articles in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2001, he was hooked. His book, “The Collar and The Gun,” was published recently.

A history teacher at New London-Spicer Middle School for 35 years, Urdahl had been working on a book of essays about courageous Minnesotans for a wide audience. People of all ages need heroes, to learn from those displaying courage, he said.

Urdahl soon realized, however, that an essay about the priest wouldn’t be enough.

“After reading about Father Kaiser, I wanted to do his story in more detail. He was a courageous leader of human rights of the people in Kenya.” (See related article: “Who was Father John Kaiser?”)

Father Kaiser’s story stayed with Urdahl — while serving the Minnesota State House of Representatives since 2002 and while teaching, until retirement in 2006.

Urdahl wanted to tell about this “man of God, standing up against injustice. It was always in my mind. I thought about it for years, even while writing other books.”

He consulted with Father Bill Vos, a long-time friend of Father Kaiser, retired priest of the St. Cloud Diocese and former missionary in the Musoma Diocese in Tanzania. Father Vos had provided information for Urdahl’s essay in 2002 and encouraged him to write the full story.
Urdahl wrote “The Collar and the Gun” as historical fiction, using dialogue. His first book, “Uprising,” had been called a “history lesson disguised as a novel,” he said, and Father Kaiser’s story was done similarly. “The Collar and the Gun” tells the riveting story centered in Kenya through Father Kaiser’s eyes. At the end, Urdahl lists his interviews and resources.

“A textbook wouldn’t get the same reaction and interest,” Urdahl said. “ ‘The Collar and the Gun’ is strong on history, based on the facts of how things happened, to the best of my knowledge. The very last chapter, a summary, is all true.

“I like to tell a story through dialogue,” he said. “Obviously I wasn’t there, so most of the dialogue is conjecture, though some is actual. The end of the book is my conjecture on what happened — it’s fiction.” Urdahl changed people’s names to steer clear of possible legal repercussions.
Father Vos, who edited “The Collar and the Gun” for Urdahl, said it was well done regarding historical events.

“The heart of the story for me — the issues John dealt with as priest and pastor in Kenya — was accurate,” Father Vos said. “I appreciate the amount of in-depth information Urdahl provided, interviewing key players who dealt with Father Kaiser. The way he started each chapter with a different person was a clever approach.”

Gathering information
To complete the book, Urdahl and his wife Karen traveled to Kenya in 2009. Father Gregory Ombok, a Kenyan priest serving then in Bowlus, made arrangements with Father Christopher Wasonga to host the Urdahls.

“Father Wasonga was invaluable as a guide,” Urdahl said. “We stayed in his home and he provided transportation to Father Kaiser’s home parishes.

“I had many casual conversations with people who’d known Father Kaiser and shared times when they’d met him. I taped the in-depth interviews — most people had their own conjecture [about what happened].”

Urdahl also read newspaper accounts of Father Kaiser’s testimony at a government hearing in Kenya sent to him by Bishop Colin Davies, Father Kaiser’s bishop. Official records from the hearing had been expunged.

Urdahl was aided by Bishop Davies, priests and church members, and, he said, by Sister Nuala Brangan, who was with John Kaiser at the Maela refugee camp and who offered important suggestions.

A real hero
Father Vos, a classmate of Father Kaiser at St. John’s University, said, “John was very influential in sparking my own interest in working in Africa. We were neighbors there, separated only by the Tanzania-Kenya border, so it was easy for us to get together — we vacationed several times and frequently fished and hunted.”

Father Vos remembered his friend as “an ordinary person who did extraordinary things, with tremendous loyalty to the Gospel and the church. He stayed the course and accepted what came his way, leaving the rest in the hands of the Lord. None of us feel we are heroes, but he was a real one.”

Urdahl would agree.

“Father John Kaiser provides inspiration to people of all faiths, not just Catholics,” said Urdahl, a member of Zion Lutheran in Litchfield, Minn. “Researching to write this book changed my outlook and my wife’s.”

The Collar and the Gun

July 31, 2010

Book explores mysterious death of St. Cloud priest in Africa

By Frank Lee

It’s a real-life mystery involving the Catholic Church, exotic locations and intrigue, but if you think you know the whole story about the Rev. John Kaiser’s death, here comes another chapter.

A new book by Minnesota Rep. Dean Urdahl was recently released that coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Kaiser’s death in Kenya; Kaiser was a member of the St. Cloud diocese.

“It all started nine years ago. My wife and I were going on vacation to Florida, and I got on the airplane, looked down and saw on my seat a St. Paul newspaper, and staring up at me was the story on John Kaiser,” said Urdahl, a Republican from the Grove City area.

“The Collar and the Gun,” a 234-page softcover book from North Star Press of St. Cloud, was the result of that random sighting. The retired teacher based his book on Kaiser, who was found dead along a busy highway between Naivasha and Nairobi with a gunshot wound to the head.

“He was a Minnesotan who had gone to Africa, devoted 36 years of his life to missionary work and — in those last years — had run up against what he felt was injustice and corruption in the government — fought it — and the questions about how his life ended intrigued me,” Urdahl said.

Mysterious death

Kaiser received Kenya’s highest human rights honor in 2006 from the very same government the Perham native fought against — and some say died at the hands of. The 67-year-old’s death was ruled a suicide by the FBI and the Kenyan Criminal Investigation Division.

“Then they had an inquest into the killing, and the Odero Commission basically reversed the original inquest findings that Kaiser’s death was a suicide. They also listed persons of interest that they thought should be investigated ... but none of that has happened,” he said.

Before his death, Kaiser was an outspoken critic of the ethnic cleansing and distribution of Kenyan land in the East African country under the regime of former President Daniel arap Moi.

“I think that they would just assume it went away,” Urdahl said of the aftermath following the death of Kaiser, who shares the Milele (Lifetime) Achievement Award with Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya, an environmentalist, activist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

Kaiser was helping teenage girls who accused a Kenyan Cabinet member of sexual assault, but Kaiser died within a week of the scheduled court hearings.

“In fact, many of the most likely suspects of being directly involved (in Kaiser’s death) mysteriously died within a few years of John Kaiser,” said Urdahl, a graduate of St. Cloud State University.


The FBI’s report in 2001 referred several times to circumstantial evidence indicating Kaiser, a member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, had suffered from manic depression.

“I never met him. The only way I have come to know him is through my research, through my travels and through talking to people. I asked questions about what his voice sounded like or if he had any particular inflections or things that he said,” said Urdahl, a former coach.

There will be a Sept. 19 commemoration of Kaiser at the Cathedral of St. Mary in downtown St. Cloud. Guests will include Philip Anyolo of the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya, with a brief presentation on Kaiser.

“I had a priest say — when I asked how Kaiser walked — that Kaiser walked like a soldier, his shoulders back, striding forward. He was our John Wayne,” Urdahl said.

Urdahl and his wife, Karen, a St. Cloud native, went to Kenya in 2009 to do more research on his book, which can be described as a work of historical fiction because it includes dialogue that was conjecture, even though he tried to get the story as accurate as he could, he said.

“It was difficult, obviously, because I was writing about not only a man who I didn’t know and a country that I didn’t know. And, heck, I’m a Norwegian Lutheran,” said Urdahl, who is a member of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs.

“Writing this book has made me more aware — in a more real sense — of the injustices in the world.”

Published book

The theory that Kaiser, a Roman Catholic priest, would have committed suicide is incomprehensible to those who knew him, such as his longtime friend, the Rev. William Vos, who arranged many of the interviews between Urdahl and key sources in Kenya.

“There are four or five possibilities as to how he died, and I chose one that I thought did the story that I was putting together the best, and also one that certainly many believe,” Urdahl said.

Vos, former director of the St. Cloud Mission Office of the Diocese of St. Cloud, approved of the book, according to Urdahl.

“I agreed to do sort of an edit, pre-publication, and then when the final result came out, I was very pleased with it. I think Dean captured the heart of the issues surrounding John’s life in Kenya. It did bring back some very vivid memories,” Vos said.

“I’m happy to see that annually on the anniversary of his death folks in Kenya gather ... for a priest from the United States who literally laid his life on the line ... and therefore we (Kenyans) should rise to the occasion as well in dealing with the ongoing corruption.”

Additional Facts
About John Kaiser
» Graduated in 1951 from St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville.
» Attended St. John’s University for two years before enlisting in the Army in 1954.
» Graduated from St. Louis University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.
» From 1960-64, attended St. Joseph’s Seminary for philosophy and theology in Mill Hill, England.
» Ordained in 1964 in St. Louis.
» Built churches, a maternity hospital and clinic, and a secondary school for girls as a parish priest for the Diocese of Kisii in Kenya after 1969.
» Assigned to the Masai tribe in Lolgorian, Kenya, in the 1990s, until his death Aug. 24, 2000.

About Kenya
The International Monetary Fund, which had resumed loans in 2000 to help Kenya through a drought, again halted lending in 2001 when the government failed to institute several anticorruption measures.

Daniel arap Moi’s 24-year-old reign ended with the Dec. 27, 2002, elections, and a new opposition government took on the formidable economic problems facing the nation.
» Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania.
» Size: Slightly more than twice the size of Nevada.

» Capital: Nairobi.
» Population: 40 million.
» Life expectancy: 59 years.
» Death rate: 9.26 deaths/1,000 population.
» Religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim, other.
Source: CIA World Factbook