By Kipchumba Some
The son of a deceased prominent politician has sued the Roman Catholic Church alleging years of sexual abuse at the hands of priests in Kenya and abroad.
Emmanuel Shikuku, 45, has filed a case in the UK against six men who were part of the Mill Hill Missionaries order. He claims he was a victim of a series of rapes and other forms of abuse between 1978 and 1994.
One of the men he names is former bishop of the Ngong Diocese Fr Cornelius Schilder, a Dutch national stripped of his duties as a priest in 2009 for allegedly abusing a Maasai herds boy.
Emmanuel is a son of Martin Shikuku, a firebrand politician who passed away last August. He did not attend his father’s funeral as he was in Germany at the time pursuing his claim.
After spending much of the last two decades in Europe, Mr Shikuku is back in the country to record a statement with police over the alleged crimes.
He has sued six Mill Hill priests — four Dutchmen and two Britons — over sex attacks that allegedly began when he was a nine-year-old altar boy in Mumias.
Speaking exclusively to The Standard on Saturday, Mr Shikuku described what he termed “the haunting memories of a painful childhood” he suffered as a result of the abuse.
Asked why he has decided to file a complaint after such a long time, he said “shame, guilt and a fear of not being believed” had held him back until recently.
Mr Shikuku abandoned priesthood training at St Joseph’s College in London in 1994, due to an addiction to alcohol. He says he started drinking to cope with the assaults.
In a demand letter his UK lawyers Emmott Snell & Co sent to the General Council of the Mill Hill Missionaries, Mr Shikuku said he was first abused at the age of nine by a priest at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kakamega.
“After these assaults, the same Father threatened to run down our client with his motorcycle if he told anyone what had happened,” reads part of the statement.
The letter further reads that in 1979, while at Mumias Boys Primary School, Emmanuel was abused by both a student and a teacher at the school. When he turned to the local parish priest for help in form of a confession, “The Father took our client to his home where he sexually assaulted him”.
Around 1992, Shikuku joined Mill Hill Missionaries’ parish in Kakamega to commence training on his way to priesthood. He says he disclosed his past abuse at the hands of other members of Mill Hill Missionaries to another Father.
This allegedly opened him to more abuse with the priest threatening not to recommend him for the next stage of his path to priesthood if he did not give in to his sexual demands.
Mr Shikuku’s claim becomes the third prominent incident of sexual abuse leveled against foreign Catholic priests in Kenya. In 2005, Moses Ole Uka from Ngong accused Fr. Schilder and other Mill Hill priests of abusing him.
In 2009, Fr Renato Sessana, famously known locally as Fr Kizito from Comboni Fathers, was accused by a group of young men of abuse.
The case was later thrown out of court due to lack of evidence.
But in 2011, he was once again thrust into the limelight on the same charges after one of personal assistants accused him of abusing him after lacing his food with sleeping pills. The police later released him without preferring a charge.
“It is very difficult for people to understand what people like me go through,” said Mr Shikuku. “It is a trauma that lasts for a lifetime and it takes courage to come out and speak about it.”
Around 1993, after being selected for a one-year course at Mill Hill Formation House in Jinja Uganda, to study philosophy, Mr Shikuku said the institution’s rector abused him again in the pretext of “assessing” him for ministry.
He said he was later sent to Tarasa Village in the Malindi Diocese for pastoral experience where he met Fr Schilder who had the final decision about whether he would go to St Joseph’s College, a Mill Hill seminary in north London, for his final training.
“During further ‘assessment’ sessions, Fr. Schilder sexually assaulted our client,” the UK lawyers charge. “This occurred almost every night for around a month and was always associated with alcohol. Our client acquiesced to consuming alcohol in order to endure the assaults.”
By the time he secured a place at St Joseph’s College in September 1993, Mr Shikuku said his alcohol abuse had increased to an unmanageable level.
Even there, he was also allegedly abused by another priest, a staff member at the college. After this incident, the letter states, the Father informed Mr Shikuku of his dismissal from the Mill Hill Missionaries, thus ending his priesthood dreams.
Our efforts to get a comment from the superior general of Mill Hill Missionaries did not bear fruit. The calls we made to them in their head office in Maidenhead,
London, went unanswered and the so were the emails we sent them.
Similarly, our efforts to get a comment from the office of Cardinal John Njue, the head of the Catholic Church in the country, were unfruitful at the time of going to press.
Mr Shikuku said that he was not pursuing the case for financial gains, but added that “it is natural that any settlement, if it will come to that, will inevitably involve money.”