Sins of the Flesh Church Shaken by Sexual Abuse Allegations in Africa
Following a series of abuse cases in Europe and North America, revelations have emerged of sexual abuse by priests in a number of African countries. The case of Father Renato Kizito, who is accused of raping young men in Kenya, shows how local power structures work in favor of the clerics.
The man in the picture made a pitiful impression. He had white hair, a white beard and bushy eyebrows and was sitting on a spare tire in the rear of a police vehicle, at the mercy of the photographer.
His name is Father Renato Kizito, 67, and he is "Kenya's probably best-known priest," as the mass-circulation newspaper Daily Nation puts it. He had been arrested once again, after his longtime secretary Collins Ochieng, 26, went to the police and accused him of sexual abuse.
The priest had abused him for years, Ochieng claimed. One recent incident happened in early March, when Kizito had asked him to come to his home and offered him a meal, he said. He had become tired, and the priest had started oiling him. Then it happened. The pain lasted for days, he said.
Ochieng was already familiar with the procedure. But he did not want to put up with it any longer. On May 24, he was once again summoned by Kizito. Again he was given something to eat and grew tired. But this time he went to the hospital afterward and then to the police. The medical report concluded that "sexual assault, sodomy" had occurred.
The priest was arrested. The detention lasted only one night, however. He was supposed to appear before a judge in Nairobi the next day. But a senior Kenyan police official came forward and insisted on Kizito's release. A church official had supposedly intervened on Kizito's behalf with the Kenyan president, according to rumors. Although this course of events has not been proven, it is quite conceivable that it could happen in Kenya.
'I Found Him Holding a Towel and Some Vaseline'
Kizito is well known in Nairobi. He is head of the Koinonia Community, a Christian relief project that tries to help street children. The project provides young people -- mainly boys -- with shelter and education. It pays teachers and gives the youth the opportunity to take part in basic vocational training and sometimes even awards them college scholarships. Koinonia has given hundreds of young Kenyans the hope of a better life. Father Kizito has been at the center of the community for the past 15 years. He is a native Italian who came to Kenya from Zambia at the end of the 1980s.
But now, it seems, his alleged acts could bring the priest down. It is not the first time that allegations have been made against him. In the summer of 2009, three young men, who were 16 and 24 years old at the time, swore under oath that they had been sexually abused by him over a long period. One of the men, Benson S., said that the priest had first touched him when he was 15.
During one meeting, the priest had asked him to undress and take a bath. According to Benson S.'s testimony: "When coming from bathroom I found him holding a towel and some Vaseline. He took the Vaseline and repeated the usual exercises and touched my manhood and buttocks after which he asked me to move close to the bed, all this time with my eyes closed."
The three young men testified that the priest allegedly forced them to have oral and anal sex. A video camera was always running, they said. Sometimes other white men were there. The priest allegedly always threatened that "he would physically punish us seriously" if any of them talked about their experiences, they said. "I have lost also faith in the Catholic Church as a result of the trauma and abuse," one of the men said at the time.
The father insists on his innocence. He claims that the young men were probably paid for their statements by individuals who wanted to get him out of the way and get their hands on Koinonia's properties, which are worth millions. The men ultimately withdrew their statements. One of them said later that he had revoked his testimony because he had come under enormous pressure and had been threatened with death.
Since then, new alleged victims have come forward. It is difficult to believe the priest's claims that there is an organized campaign against him.
'But What Will People Say?'
Twenty-five-year-old Hesbon Ouma also claims to be one of the priest's victims. He alleges the priest invited him to dinner several times in 2007. Father Kizito supposedly told him he suffered from high blood pressure and that the doctors had suggested sex to him as part of his therapy. The priest, Ouma claims, told him: "I need your help."
"How can I help you?" Ouma replied
"You know how," Father Kizito said
Uoma: "Do you need a woman?"
Kizito: "Not necessarily. You could also help me."
Uoma: "But what will people say?"
Ouma says that nothing happened that night. Several days later, he says, the priest cooked spaghetti and meat, but didn't eat any of it himself. "I suddenly became weak," Ouma told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "When I woke up, I was very oily. I took a shower, and the next morning the priest apologized to me." He claims it happened frequently, but that didn't stop Ouma from continuing to visit the priest. When asked how often, he says, it took place "for two years, often. I didn't keep track of the number of times."
- Part 1: Church Shaken by Sexual Abuse Allegations in Africa
- Part 2: Priests Possess Enormous Authority