You Will See Fire: A Search for Justice in Kenya

Overview

A nonfiction mystery dwelling on timeless themes: an individual’s stand against corruption, the complexity of the human heart.
Whether gunning down a warthog, raising the beams he'd hewn himself for a new church, or standing up for landless refugees and abused girls, Father John Kaiser was a figure larger than life. He was fierce in his commitments, devoted to the poor and displaced, and fearless—what some would call reckless—in the pursuit of justice. For this he was beloved by...

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You Will See Fire: A Search for Justice in Kenya

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Overview

A nonfiction mystery dwelling on timeless themes: an individual’s stand against corruption, the complexity of the human heart.
Whether gunning down a warthog, raising the beams he'd hewn himself for a new church, or standing up for landless refugees and abused girls, Father John Kaiser was a figure larger than life. He was fierce in his commitments, devoted to the poor and displaced, and fearless—what some would call reckless—in the pursuit of justice. For this he was beloved by his parishioners, seen as a loose cannon by his superiors in the church, and despised by Kenya's strongmen under the tyrannical leadership of Daniel arap Moi. When Kaiser was discovered dead on a remote roadside in the bush, the FBI ruled it a suicide. Kenyans were sure he'd been murdered.
In a new Kenya, post-Moi, it would fall to Charles Mbuthi Gathenji, a prominent dissident and the son of a man himself murdered for his beliefs, to find out what really happened to Father John Kaiser.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With the support of extensive government documents, interviews, and candid photos, Goffard, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, examines the life and death of a true Roman Catholic warrior priest, Father John Kaiser, an advocate of the poor and abused Kenyans in the bush. Collecting facts of the brutality of the tyrant Daniel Arap Moi’s henchmen in journals and affidavits, Kaiser, a missionary labeled uncontrollable by his church superiors, boldly confronted the ruthless rule of a local strongman on his own turf and testified before a commission to expose the atrocities against the townspeople. Goffard’s eye for detail and political complexity lends authenticity to the rebel priest’s long commitment to the Kenyans, fighting for justice and stability since his early days in the country in the 1960s, and leading to his execution style slaying on a dirt road in 2000. After an FBI investigation concluded Kaiser had committed suicide (with a bullet shot to the back of his head), the author uncovers a later ruling based on evidence neglected in the earlier hearing. Startling revelations, government miscues, and one brave man’s crusade to seek the truth make this political mystery exceptional and informative reading. 8 pages of photos. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Father John Kaiser—former paratrooper, avid hunter, and Catholic missionary—started schools and churches in Kenya and oversaw thousands of Masai parishioners for over 30 years. He avoided politics, focusing on his religious work instead, but the ethnic cleansing and open political corruption of the 1978–2002 regime of Daniel arap Moi pushed him beyond his limits. Having long battled both the government and the church hierarchy that turned a blind eye to the corruption, Kaiser was found dead in the wilderness in August 2000. The initial VERDICT was suicide, and it was up to Kenyan lawyer Charles Gathenji to take up the fight, this time to find justice for Kaiser and to prove his death was a political murder. Goffard (staff writer, Los Angeles Times; Snitch Jacket) traces the appalling recent history of a once-promising country and one man's fight against overwhelming odds. VERDICT A clear-eyed portrait of a complex and not completely likable figure, but one who nevertheless fought the good fight, this book will appeal to readers of church history and political history, as well as true crime buffs. [See Prepub Alert, 6/13/11.]—Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH
Library Journal
In August 2000, three weeks before he was to testify against the repressive regime of President Daniel Arap Moi before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Father John Kaiser was found shot to death on a lonely road in Kenya. The FBI ruled it a suicide, despite Father John's unending courage in standing up for the poor. Los Angeles Times writer Goffard re-creates the life and death of an exceptional man.
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist revisits the unsolved mystery surrounding the 2000 death of a controversial Catholic priest. Los Angeles Times contributor Goffard (Snitch Jacket, 2007) probes beneath the headlines in this nuanced, multilayered account of the life of Father John Kaiser, an American former paratrooper who joined a Catholic missionary order and served in Kenya for more than three decades. During his life, he was considered something of a crank--he always carried a shotgun and hunted big game and was conservative on matters of Catholic doctrine yet appreciated the role played by native witch doctors--but he was admired for his courageous stand against the corrupt Kenyan dictator Daniel Aratrap Moi. Goffard believes that Kaiser, who before his death became "a symbol of national conscience, a source of hope, a galvanizing force," was murdered because of his campaign to bring one of Moi's top henchman to trial and bring the dictator himself before the Hague Court of International Justice. Kaiser did not have the support of his Catholic superiors, who feared reprisals against the church. While the case for murder is certainly plausible, the author also considers the possibility of suicide because of Kaiser's fear that he would be forced to return to the United States. Plagued by malaria and other ailments, including several bipolar episodes, the 67-year-old priest almost appeared to be courting martyrdom. That he staged his suicide to look like murder is also possible, although his Catholic beliefs speak against this possibility. In 2002, the Moi regime was finally overthrown. Goffard makes a convincing case that although the circumstances of Kaiser's death remain a mystery, his legacy is incontestable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393077421
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/5/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Goffard writes for the Los Angeles Times and lives in Southern California.

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Table of Contents

1 The House at the Edge of the Dark 1

2 The Lawyer 14

3 The Collar and the Gun 21

4 Oaths 38

5 The Dictator 56

6 The Clashes 70

7 The Terrible Place 77

8 The Raid 85

9 Lolgorien 94

10 The Tribunal 115

11 The Girls 130

12 We Will All Be Sorted Out 141

13 The Bureau 156

14 Manic Depression 178

15 The Verdict 194

16 The End of the Time of Moi 202

17 The Inquest 215

18 The Labyrinth with No Center 239

Acknowledgments 256

Sources and Notes 257

Selected Reading 299

Index 301

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