Kenya claims US diplomat killed father of three while speeding and embassy sped him out of the country

An American diplomat has been accused of causing a crash that killed a father of three after he allegedly sped through Kenya and hit a minibus.

Joshua Walde, who worked at the embassy in Nairobi, was flown out of Kenya with his family the following day, leaving the victims of the crash, and the pregnant widow of the man who died, with no financial assistance.

Latifah Naiman Mariki, whose fourth baby in due in three months, faced being evicted from her house this week after her landlord demanded rent. Her husband, Haji Lukindo, had been the family’s only source of income.

Widowed: Latifah Naiman Mariki, whose husband was killed in the crash, says she will struggle to raise their children

Widowed: Latifah Naiman Mariki, whose husband was killed in the crash, says she will struggle to raise their children

The 38-year-old said neither Mr Walde or the U.S. Embassy had contacted her and she does not know how she will provide for her new baby and other children, who are aged 20, 10 and 7.

‘It is difficult for me to handle this matter because my kids need to go to school. They need everything, basic needs,’ she said. ‘We have no place to stay because we have to pay the rent. We have no money. … Even if my kids are sick I have no money to take them to hospital.’

State Department spokesman Hilary Renner said the embassy extended its condolences to Ms Mariki’s family and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

She said she could not comment on whether Mr Walde would return to Kenya.

Victim: Bus driver Haji Lukindo was killed when the diplomat's SUV hit his vehicle

Victim: Bus driver Haji Lukindo was killed when the diplomat’s SUV hit his vehicle

‘The embassy is fully cooperating with the Kenyan authorities as they investigate the accident and work to aid the victims,’ Ms Renner said from Washington.

Mr Walde, an information management officer at the Nairobi embassy, crashed his SUV as he drove home on July 11. He gave a statement to police but, because he has diplomatic immunity, he was not detained.

Nine passengers in the bus were injured and three were reported to still be in hospital after breaking limbs.

A police dossier on the case, shown briefly to the Associated Press, contained sketches of how police believe the accident happened. 

The sketch shows Mr Walde’s SUV turning at a four-way intersection on the edge of Nairobi and driving into the lane of oncoming traffic.

A police officer familiar with the case, who asked not to be named because he was not an official spokesman, said: ‘[Walde] was driving very fast’.

Pictures in the dossier showed that the SUV hit the front corner and side of the mini-bus, which crushed its frame. Kenyan mini-buses, known as matatus, are frequently driven fast and erratically.

Ms Mariki told the Mwakilishi Newspaper: ‘I waited for him to arrive but he never came home. I called his phone several times but there was no answer. It was unlike him not to come home.’

She said a colleague of her husband helped search for him and, after visiting several police stations, they discovered that he had been killed in a crash.

A Facebook group of Kenyan mothers is trying to raise money for Ms Mariki online. In dozens of comments on the page, AP said many demanded accountability and expressed dismay that no financial help has been given.

‘She’s such a decent and honest lady you feel so bad for her. She wasn’t employed,’ Zahra Ashif, who started the Facebook thread, said.

‘The point is that [Walde] is not here so he can’t be arrested, but after that point did he not have any courtesy to get in touch? For them life has gone on, but what about these kids?’

Crash victim Mr Lukindo had been employed as a driver for the past seven years. His boss, Farzana Jiwa, donated money to help pay for Mr Lukindo’s funeral and to help pay his family’s rent for August.

He said he was angry that neither Mr Walde nor the U.S. Embassy was helping the victims.

‘I’m not asking him to go to jail, but do right by the family, it’s so simple. Insurance would have taken care of it,’ Mr Jiwa said. ‘They couldn’t jail him, they couldn’t take his passport from him. All we want is for him to take some responsibly.’

Mr Walde has worked for the State Department for 11 years, which has included postings in Kazakhstan, Uruguay and Croatia.

Struggle: The victim's pregnant wife says she cannot afford her rent in this Nairobi slum because the family survived on her husband's wages

Struggle: The victim’s pregnant wife says she cannot afford her rent in this Nairobi slum because the family survived on her husband’s wages

Shortly after the crash, he updated his work history on the networking site LinkedIn to put his time in Nairobi in the past tense, from July 2012 to July 2013.

After the Facebook group noticed the updated resume and pointed to that as evidence that Mr Walde would not return to face charges or help victims, the LinkedIn account was deleted, though a cached version is still available through Google, according to AP.

Mr Walde’s wife was reported to have circulated an email trying to sell a family vehicle and find new work for the family’s nanny and gardener after the crash.

When AP approached her for comment on Thursday no response was sent.

Ms Mariki, the widow, lives in a $125-a-month sheet-metal home in one of Nairobi’s slums. It has no running water and the tiny alleyways turn into a swampy pit when it rains.

She needs to find $500 a year to send her two school-age children to class but she said she did not know how she will afford it.

Ms Mariki said she wanted Mr Walde to be prosecuted in court, adding: ‘What I want is justice to be done.’

Kenyan police spokesman, Ziporah Mboroki said no charges had yet been filed against Mr Walde.

‘He is a diplomat and has the privileges of a diplomat. If you’re a diplomat and you commit any crime in Kenya, the case is investigated and is forwarded to your embassy,’ she said. ‘That’s what the law says and we work per the law.’

Nairobi traffic police chief, Patrick Lumumba, said he was seeking assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to liaise with the U.S. Embassy.

He added that authorities did not detain Mr Walde because ‘we don’t take diplomats into custody’.

However, he told Mwakilishi that police have written to Attorney-General Githu Muigai and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for help in having Mr Walde brought back to the country to face charges.

Justice: Latifah Mariki wants the U.S. diplomat to be returned to Nairobi and charged

Justice: Latifah Mariki wants the U.S. diplomat to be returned to Nairobi and charged

A State Department guidance paper for U.S. law enforcement officials on how diplomatic immunity works states that even at the highest levels ‘diplomatic immunity is not intended to serve as a license for persons to flout the law and purposely avoid liability for their actions’.

It added: ‘The purpose of these privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient and effective performance of their official missions on behalf of their governments.

There is concern about the impact the accident could have on U.S.-Kenya relations, a U.S. government official said.

The official noted that embassy employees are typically removed from a posting for medical evaluations after traumatic events, but added that they can also be flown out of a country to avoid any possible retribution or attacks from others involved in an accident.



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