- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

LOLGORIAN, Kenya Making his final trip to his mission church on the Serengeti Plains, the Rev. John Kaiser, a U.S. native, was eulogized yesterday as a champion of the poor and a martyr to the crusade for social justice in Kenya.
Hundreds of the Masai people who used to attend his rough-hewn, hillside church gathered yesterday in Lolgorian, a small village on the edge of the famed Masai Mara Game Reserve, 155 miles northwest of Nairobi.
Draped in their traditional red cloth togas and wearing colorful beaded jewelry, many sat quietly waiting for the convoy bringing Father Kaiser's body for burial.
"We are hurt very bad," said one Masai man, William Moguso Okeyo. "We don't know what will happen next."
Many politicians and human rights activists have called Father Kaiser's death a political assassination. The vocal critic of Kenya's human rights record was found dead eight days ago along a highway near Naivasha, 50 miles northwest of Nairobi. He had been shot in the back of the head.
Local media reports said documents found on his body linked two unidentified Kenyan Cabinet ministers to violent tribal clashes. Father Kaiser intended to hand the documents over to a government commission looking into the clashes, which took place in the Rift Valley province between 1992 and 1997, the reports said.
"Father Kaiser always loved the truth," said Bishop Joseph Mairura, who studied under the priest in seminary. "Because he witnessed the truth, and some powerful people feared the truth, he was killed. Instead of repenting, they killed him."
The United States has dispatched three FBI agents to work alongside Kenyan police investigating the crime. A fourth agent attached to the U.S. Embassy is also assisting.
Father Kaiser had worked at several missions in western Kenya, and funeral masses were held at three of them.
In Nyangusu, where Father Kaiser started work in 1976 and where he built a successful church and school, thousands of faithful braved a damp, chilly night, crowding around the overflowing chapel for an all-night vigil.
Encased in a teak-and-brass coffin with a glass lid, Father Kaiser, a native of Minnesota, was dressed in robes with a crucifix made of beads in the Masai style around his neck. Hundreds of people danced and sang through a memorial Mass in the new, partially completed church.
When Father Kaiser, 67, first arrived in Nyangusu 24 years ago, there was no church or school in the village of several thousand people. At the memorial vigil, many people sat on the scaffolding or in the unfinished windowsills of the new chapel to catch a glimpse of him.
Inside the round concrete structure, children had tied colored yarn to lengths of twine as decoration. Beach balls hung from the ceiling.
"This is Father Kaiser's land," said one boy.
Even though Father Kaiser left Nyangusu 14 years ago, about 5,000 people chanted his name as the convoy bearing his body arrived. Hundreds slept on the grass during the vigil.
On Wednesday, thousands of Kenyans, including legislators and human rights activists, flocked to pay their respects at Nairobi's Holy Family Basilica.
Speakers at the Mass held in the capital proclaimed Father Kaiser a martyr and a beacon for the oppressed and suffering. Father Kaiser had worked in Kenya for 36 years.
Before and after the ceremony, members of the Kenya Human Rights Network and students demonstrated outside the Holy Family Basilica Cathedral chanting and singing freedom songs.
"I have never seen anything like this before. It's a dreadful tragedy, but John's martyrdom will far outweigh his murder," said Carolita Mahoney, Father Kaiser's sister who arrived in Kenya from Minnesota on Monday.

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