By CAROLINE RWENJI and FRANCIS MUREITHI
Fr Renato Kizito Sesana. PHOTO/ FILE
One of Kenya’s best known Catholic priests was on Tuesday at the centre of child abuse allegations, which drew a swift promise of investigations from John Cardinal Njue. Fr Renato Kizito Sesana, best known as a newspaper columnist and for his charity work in Nairobi slums, was accused by two teenagers of sexually molesting them during visits to a missionary centre he runs at Dagoretti Corner in Nairobi.
But the bearded Italian, who has served the Catholic Church in Kenya for the last 20 years and won two awards for his peace work, denied the accusation.
He cast the television report which raised them as instigated by people who had been quietly trying to drive him out of Kenya in the hope of seizing land and assets of the Koinonia Community, which he established.
A media report on Monday charged that Fr Kizito had taken naked pictures of children and transmitted them to Italy and had molested children who visited the Koinonia Community Centre, which he began three years ago. Two boys who claimed to have been abused by the priest were interviewed, with their faces obscured.
Fr Kizito’s denial came as John Cardinal Njue said the Catholic Church would investigate the allegations of child abuse against the highly ranked priest to establish the truth.
On Tuesday Fr Kizito, who won an international award for his peace work among communities in war-torn Sudan, said the claims were part of a campaign launched last year to wrest the community’s assets, worth Sh5 billion, from him.
It had begun in October with an e-mail attached to a naked image alleged to be of him and a “young adult”, the priest said.
“It is impossible to say if it was a man or a woman. Those pictures were clearly doctored using photo editing software, and so I did not accord them much importance,” said Fr Kizito.
Over time, however, he said, he realised that the issue was much bigger and was being pushed by people who once enjoyed his confidence but had been expelled from the Koinonia Community.
“Let me state very clearly. I have not sodomised any child. I am ready to face anybody who can prove the opposite. I am aware that some criminals do use such allegations of sexual offences to instill fear in lay and religious people working with young people, usually with the intention of extorting money. I am not ready to fall into this trap,” Fr Kizito said in a statement.
Cardinal Njue, the chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, promised investigations would be conducted into the matter and action taken if the claims turned out to be true.
Fr Kizito said he had cut short a foreign trip to face his accusers and had already recorded a statement at the Kilimani police station, even though his accusers had presented no complaint or evidence to the authorities.
The Nation tried unsuccessfully to contact the boys who claimed to have been sodomised and their lawyer.