The Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing orphan boys in his care on Wednesday maintained he was the victim of vicious extortionists who want to grab the projects he runs. Father Renato Kizito claimed those making the accusations have demanded Sh40 million to drop their claims.
He further alleged that one of the young men recorded accusing him of sexually abusing him had been offered Sh75,000 ($1,000) to testify against him. “I am told people proposed to my superiors I should pay them Sh40 million to drop the matter,” Father Kizito, who is head of Koinonia Community, a rehabilitation centre for street children, told the Nation.
He says the institution has assets worth Sh3 billion. However, he declined to name those who demanded the money from him, saying he had learnt of it only a few hours earlier. The priest from the Comboni Fathers said he recorded a statement at Kilimani Police Station upon his arrival in Nairobi on Monday.
However, acting police spokesman Charles Owino said no statement had been recorded either by Father Kizito or any of those quoted in the media making accusations against him. Fr Kizito said he had returned to Kenya to face his accusers and claimed that one of the young men who was allegedly forced to testify against him had gone into hiding. “I wouldn’t have come back,” he said.
Explicit pictures claimed to be of him, were first e-mailed all over the world last October but he did not take them seriously. He accused one of the Koinonia Community trustees, Mr Michael Owiso, of stabbing him in the back.
“Some people now suddenly accuse me of a colonial mentality!” the priest, who started the Catholic church-owned Radio Waumini, said. He has been a priest for more than 40 years and has served in Zambia and Sudan. Excerpts from interview with the Nation at Shalom Centre, Dagoretti, Nairobi:
Question: How long have you lived in Kenya?
Fr Kizito: I came in 1988 as a missionary.
Q: When did you get involved with street children in here?
Fr Kizito: I started Koinonia Community in 2000.
Q: How many children have gone through Koinonia?
Fr Kizito: We have 250 children here at Shalom House and another 100 in primary schools. More than 400 children have gone through Kivuli (part of Koinonia community) and settled down.
Q: Have you had similar problems before?
Fr Kizito: I have never had any problems. Even in Zambia where we have 65 street children since 2000, we have never faced any kind of accusations. In Sudan we have 2,000 children and nothing has ever been raised there.
Q: To what do you attribute the current accusations?
Fr Kizito: This is a problem of intimidation to kick me out of Kenya so that they can get projects run by Koinonia. This is a matter of money!
Q: Who are they?
Fr Kizito: Some people who are close to those making accusations against me asked for Sh40 million to drop the matter.
Q: But why would the children go along?
Fr Kizito: I don’t know.
Q: Are you homosexual? Do you sodomise boys?
Fr Kizito: No! I have not! I am a priest and I know my way of life.