Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) has offered to give legal support to a young woman in Kitui County who survived an alleged attempt on his life by a Catholic priest.
Fida Kenya says they will seek to compel the Catholic priest Japheth Mwove Kimanzi who is facing criminal charges in a Kitui court to meet the costs of raising Veronica Musali Mutua’s child, which he is alleged to have fathered.
According to Fida Executive Director Teresa Omondi – Adeitan, the organization which advocates for women’s rights will also apply to be enjoined in the criminal case against the priest to represent both the mother and the child and ensure justice is done.
“It is with deep sorrow and dismay that Fida Kenya learnt of the suffering including torture Veronica underwent in the hands of a priest, who should have been her source of refuge in such circumstances” said Ms Adeitan.
In an interview, Ms Adeitan said that Fida will take up the two cases and commended the trial magistrate for rejecting attempts to terminate the criminal case, after details emerged how the priest attempted to kill both the victim and her child.
She regretted that the young woman had been intimidated and coerced by the priest and his relatives to withdraw her case but Chief magistrate Maryanne Murage refused to terminate the trial in the interest of the minor – a blind crippled five year old child.
“Facts adduced in court show that the priest has used all means to escape justice and Veronica has endured untold violence and intimidation but we are happy the magistrate hearing the case acted to protect the rights of the minor” the executive director said.
Fr Kimanzi is facing criminal trial for assaulting and causing grievous harm to both his girlfriend Veronica and her child, as he desperately attempted to cover up infidelity to his celibacy vows.
The woman now aged 23, narrated to court how the priest lured her into an illicit relationship while still a Form One student at Mwambiu mixed secondary school in Mwingi.
“She started by giving me small favors like pocket money and I thought he meant well. I trusted him because he was our priest and he would ask me to accompany him to visit families within our area as part of his priestly work” she told the court.
Veronica explained their relationship grew fast and the priest began to sneak into their home at night whenever their parents were away where he promised more special treatment.
After a few months, Veronica became pregnant while still in Form One with the priest 22 years older than him, and would deliver a baby girl the following year on February 9th, forcing her to drop out of school.
“He flatly disowned the pregnancy and left me on my own but worse still he started threatening and intimidating me after I declined his suggestion to abort the baby” she narrated.
The first serious assault against Veronica would happen on the day she was to deliver at Mwambiu village dispensary where the priest allegedly bribed the nurse in charge to ensure the baby did not survive during birth.
“While I was in labour pains and having checked in at the dispensary, the Nurse who was drunk refused to attend me but my mother and other women who brought me to the hospital were shocked when he started abusing us bragging he had been paid to kill the baby” she recalled amid tears.
Drama ensued when the Nurse identified as Peter Mathango Mutaa attempted to make good his threat to kill the baby by banging her legs as the newborn was coming out.
This prompted the women present to shout in protest and the cruel nurse, who is yet to testify in court left Veronica unattended on the delivery bed.
Unknown to her, the baby named Lilian Mwikali survived the delivery ordeal but with permanent disability including loss of sight, damaged brain and crippled legs.
Upon learning that the first scheme to “destroy evidence’ at birth had failed, Father Kimanzi quickly sought diocesan transfer from Nuu parish to Kwa Vonza parish where he was put in charge of Nyumbani Village, an orphanage facility run by Catholic church in Kitui west.
According to Veronica, all along the 46 year old priest blatantly denied that he was responsible for the pregnancy and left her to fend the baby on her own.
“I dropped out of school in shame having let down my parents. My peers ridiculed me for coveting a priest and I’ve been struggling to raise the baby on my own since February 2012” she says.
For more than a year, Veronica wasn’t aware that her child was blind but she started noticing signs of stunted growth when it emerged that the kid couldn’t walk and learn basic skills like talking.
Caught between the shame of teenage motherhood and pressures of parenting, she decided to seek help from Mr Kimanzi’s colleagues in the church but most of them stuck to his story of she was out to tarnish the priest’s name.
“On three occasions, I was denied access to Bishop Anthony Muheria’s office when I sought audience with him and even none of the several letters I wrote explaining my troubles reached him as Father Kimanzi had blocked all my redress avenues” she told the court.
One day, she met a nun who advised her to write Bishop Muheria a personal letter and drop it at his residence, prompting an internal investigation where the priest was summoned and questioned over the matter.
“He still denied ever knowing me but I challenged him before the church leaders that I was ready for DNA examination to prove the parentage dispute” she narrated.
Finally, on January 15th, 2015, blood and tissue samples for Mr Kimanzi the alleged father, Veronica and the child were received at the Government chemist by Dr Joseph Kagunda Kimani, an analyst on human genetics.
According to the DNA report seen by KituiOnline, Dr Kimani concluded that “based on the findings, there are 99.99 per cent more chances that Japheth Mwove Kimanzi is the biological father to Lilian Mwikali, Veronica Musali’s daughter”.
Dr Kimani’s report dated February 24th, 2015, which was filed in court by prosecutors was a major victory for Veronica as it indicted the priest and proved that he was indeed responsible for the pregnancy, which saw her drop out of school.
To the church, the DNA report was an embarrassing scandal and a major affront against celibacy – a strong basis of the Catholic faith and priesthood. By this time, the priest had been transferred from Nyumbani Village to Kabati parish within the Diocese.
Father Kimanzi refused to collect the report from Government chemist until October 27th, 2015 as he feared Veronica may use it against him.
However, the following week, he suddenly changed mind and offered to start footing the cost of raising the blind crippled child who had now turned three years.
He suggested a meeting at Kabati parish offices his new station on November 16th 2015, to discuss how the child will get specialized medical attention, and that she carries with her all the clinical reports from various hospitals.
However, unknown to Veronica, this was an unthinkable trap to inflict further pain, intimidate her into total silence or possibly kill her.
“He telephoned me and suggested that we meet, I travelled from Thika with my daughter as agreed but when I arrived at Kabati Holy Family Church where he used to minister, he wasn’t in and his phone was off” she said.
She said the parish gateman had been instructed to keep her waiting until he returned but at around 5pm, the priest called asking they meet at his Tulia village home, 20 kilometers away where he claimed he was held up.
“I took a matatu and headed to his home arriving late in the evening but he was not there either. I found his mother who chased me away prompting me to seek accommodation from a neighbor’s home” she told the court.
While at the neighbor, the priest called threatening to kill her for embarrassing him while his mother followed her there and demanded she be thrown out for being a disgrace to her son.
“Cowed by the threats, my host opted to escort me to the nearby market to board a taxi back to Kabati but little did I know that after stepping out of that house, I was walking into a well laid death trap” she said.
Suddenly, a man armed with a blunt object emerged from nowhere and started chasing them. She was hit her on the head while the other woman took off to safety leaving them at the mercy of the assailant.
“I recognized my attacker was the same priest who had invited me to their home for reconciliation. I shouted his name but he responded by hitting my child who was still on my back, on the head and blood started oozing from her nose” she narrated to court.
Veronica sustained serious head injuries but survived by feigning unconsciousness after it occurred to her that the lone attacker was determined to kill them. The aggressor fled convinced that they were dead and that his task was accomplished.
She left the bleeding toddler on the road and crawled into the nearby thicket where she spent the night writhing in pain, and the two were discovered the following morning by villagers who alerted police.
Officers from Tulia police post rushed them to Muthale Mission Hospital where they were given first aid and admitted for further treatment.
More trouble would follow a day later when the priest instigated their premature discharge from Muthale Hospital run by the church even before they had recovered.
Documents filed in court indicate that Veronica was admitted November 17, and discharged the following day.
Father Japheth Kimanzi was arrested by police and arraigned in court. The priest who has been excommunicated by the church is yet to defend himself in court but the case is coming up for hearing on December 6th
Source: Daily Nation