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July 1st, 2009:

Una Brutta Storia – An Ugly Story

The time has come to inform all my friends on what has been taking place in Nairobi since last October. I try to be objective and as matter of fact as possible, though the events that I report here below have affected me and my work in a dramatic way.
At the beginning of October 2008 I received an anonymous email, with vague threats, and with a picture purportedly depicting me naked with a young adult – impossible to say if a man or a woman. The picture was clearly doctored using photo editing software. I did not accord it much importance. In the following weeks, as I was traveling in Kenya and then in Sudan, I received four more email, with another picture. The last was in the middle of November. Then I went to Italia with the Koinonia Children Team.
I came back from Italy a week before Christmas, started organizing for a long leave which I had intended to do at least since 2005, and went to Zambia January 2-6. On January 10 early morning left in a car with three others confreres to Musoma, in Tanzania, where there is a Kiswahili school where I intended to study the language and relax up to May 10. This break had been a dream for a long time. I had the last three months holidays in my home country that for us are mandatory every three years in 1998. Though I traveled frequently to Italy it was for conferences and meetings, often with more work and stress than in Nairobi.
Soon after I reached Musoma I started receiving disturbing news from Nairobi. In Koinonia social projects people were fired and hired by the Country Director (who was also a trustee) without even informing the Executive Committee and me, contrary to established praxis. I started realizing something was seriously wrong. Then some two of the four trustees of Koinonia came to se me in Musoma and informed me that there was a very widespread campaign against me, accusing me of being a practicing homosexual, and would be dangerous for me to go back to Nairobi. I could not believe, though I said I would consider their advise, but precisely because I wanted to confront these allegations I decided to go back during the school break, March 6 – 14. As I stated my determination to go back to Nairobi, more messages from the trustees stressed the danger, saying that the Kenya police had began an investigation on me. All the same, I came back to Nairobi, and the morning of March 7 I was informed by one of the said trustees that was impossible for me to stay in here, since the Police was actively looking for me and soon a warrant of arrest would be put out for me. My doubts increased, but I followed the advice and on May 8 I traveled back to Musoma. A few days after some Policemen, genuine or not I still do not know, went to see my Father Provincial, showing him on the screen of a mobile phone the same fake pictures.
The same day the two same trustees came to Musoma and told me I was in danger, very soon I would have been unable to enter into Kenya and probably my name would be give to the police forces of Uganda and Tanzania to apprehend me. I had no choice, they insisted, but to leave immediately for Europe. I was not convinced, but I did as they advised, because in spite of all the doubts I still had some trust in them. Mid March I was in Italy, and from there I went for almost a month to Zambia. Then I wrote again to Nairobi that I was about to come back. And, again, another picture from an anonymous address was sent out on internet to several donors of Koinonia community… and this time the accusation was of pedophilia.
The pattern had become very clear: every time I expressed my determination to come back to Nairobi, those playing this game were raising the stakes, in the hope that I would be afraid to come back., and they could take over “legally”, without the knowledge of Koinonia Executive Council, all the properties of Koinonia.
Then Gian Marco Elia, President of Amani, our Italian sister organization, came to Nairobi in May and things precipitated. The trustees at the beginning pretended to cooperate with the efforts of Koinonia Executive Council to protect the legal status and the constitution of the community, but in small groups meeting they were telling member that father Kizito will never come back and that they were now in charge. They started making arrangements to rent out Shalom House without the knowledge of the Executive Council, which is completely wrong because the trustees are not the owner of the corporate body, they are simply the custodians, in charge making sure that the constitutions are respected.
The Executive Council voted to remove them from trustship and put other people in their place, just on time to avoid their complete take over. All the same they arrogantly insisted that they were still in charge and at the beginning of June they gave verbal instructions to the persons responsible for our homes of children to send away the children because Amani and La Goccia had not sent enough funds. Where? To their families or to the streets. Actually, there was no lack of funds, but they could not care less for the children, they wanted the cash and the properties.
When I received the news of the dismissal of the children I decided to come back, otherwise the future of the 250 children kept in our homes, of the 100 students of our secondary school and of the other hundreds we support in different way to grow and face the difficulties of life, would be in jeopardy. Gian Marco and Father Venanzio Milani, eminent Comboni Missionary and old friend, insisted in traveling back with me, for my protection. At this stage it was clear we were up against some very dangerous people.
On coming to Nairobi I discovered there was no warrant of arrest against me, I had a meeting with Koinonia Executive Council and members, and then I went straight to the Police to deposit a statement about my version of the facts.
The same evening a local TV station, with a very unprofessional reportage, went on air accusing me of having sodomised children for the last 20 years. Not surprisingly I started receiving reports that people were bribed, threatened or tortured in order to convince them to testify falsely against me.
I held a press conference categorically denying the allegations. Yet, for ten days it was an onslaught. Almost every evening there was a new story in the news. The two former trustees, in order to keep up their accusations, had no other chance but appear in TV and accuse me directly. The game was now open. I was the center of despise and ridicule. The worst time of my life. My faith, the personal awareness of not having never committed a crime of any kind against the children, and the support I received from friends here and from Italy, especially Amani and Tavola della Pace, and many many others who had known me and visited our homes in Nairobi kept me sane and going.
The real purpose of the whole saga, I believe, was to take over the properties that Koinonia has built over the years with the help of Amani and many other international donors. And they knew that maybe they could dupe the Koinonia Executive Council, but only if I was out of the way. I had never considered the monetary value of the facilities we have built for the direct and indirect benefit of the destitute children under our care, but at first sight we can estimate a commercial value of about three to four million euros.
On top of everything, you can imagine the pain and anguish of being accused of such acts, and by people who I knew almost 20 years ago, when they left the minor seminary, and I had helped them to go to the University and build up their professional lives. They enjoyed my complete confidence, one of them was a sole signatory in most of our accounts. Unfortunately I was not successful in building up their moral character and in controlling their greed, and from the recent world report they had understood that allegations of sexual offences are enough to instill fear and to destroy a priest working with young people.
Yet little by little the truth is coming out. The Children Department and the local Police have confirmed that in all these years there was never a complaint against me. Counselors sent by the children department to visit our homes have not found a single case. And every day we uncover evidence of fraudulent behavior by the two trustees.
With the Executive Committee I am now busy assessing the damage and rebuilding the operations that had come almost to a halt. Some of our personnel have been demoralized and utterly confused by the activities and conduct of the two trustees.
The struggle is not finished. We wait to see what other evil schemes these people have in store. But now I am ready to take the needed actions.
I thank all the people who have supported me, my confreres who have been close in many ways, local priests, lay people, Italians and Kenyans. We need more than ever before their moral and material support. I have felt as never before the power of your prayers. Continue to pray for and support Koinonia, our children must not suffer as a consequence of this bad story.
I will mention this story in the blog only when there will be new substantial development, for instance if I am arrested or if we decide to take the local TV station and the former trustees to court for defamation and embezzlement. For the rest I will continue to write this blog as usual, at uneven intervals.
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