Kenya: 2 to Hang for Killing Consolata Missionary Priest

Nairobi, Kenya - The Consolata Missionaries are a consoled lot, two people have been convicted to hang by the High Court for the murder of 82 year old, Fr Giuseppe Bertaina on January 16, 2009.

The two Felix Savayi Kwesha 27, a former student at the Consolata Institute of Philosophy and Mabel Kavati 46, a house help were sentenced to hang yesterday October 22, 2010. A co-accused of the two, Zablon Okonda Asitiba was acquitted for lack of evidence to link him to the murder.

While sentencing them, Justice Jessie Lessit said the two who initially presented themselves as beggars to the priest did not deserve mercy from the court. "You turned violent on the old frail priest; you stuffed polythene papers into his mouth then strapped cello tape on his mouth. As if that was not enough you strangled him then fled. You deserve the death penalty."

The judge rejected lawyer Mbiyu Kamau's plea to sentence the accused to life imprisonment, saying the accused acted deliberately and violently, "Even if the law was to be considered their actions scare away mercy."

In an interview with CISA, Fr Franco Cellana, the Regional Superior of the Consolata Missionaries who has been following the case closely expressed his satisfaction at the speed with which the case was concluded. "The Consolata Missionaries have forgiven the two and their accomplices for their sins, but the law has to take its course." He went on.

"The Consolata missionaries are grateful to Br Kenneth Wekesa and prosecutor Mrs. Lucy Waweru for their hard work in assisting with the investigations and their support towards the successful conclusion of the case." Fr Cellana added

"While the brutal murder of Fr Bertaina robbed the Consolata Missionaries and the people of Kenya a dedicated, generous and humble priest, we believe the sentencing of the two is a vindication of all the victims of violence, of extortions, of fear and oppression. We the Consolata Missionaries asked the High Court for justice, that it be a tribunal of rights for all, especially for the Catholic Church in Kenya where many Missionaries have lost their lives" Fr Cellana concluded

Fr. Giuseppe Bertaina was born in Cuneo, Italy in 1927 and was ordained missionary priest in 1951. After his technical preparation in South Africa he arrived in Kenya in 1956. Since then he served as a Principal of many schools, Nkubu secondary school (Meru), St. Paul's High school- Kevote (Embu), Sagana Technical Training Institute (Muranga), Rector and Formator of Consolata Seminary- Lang'ata (Nairobi) and finally Rector and Administrator of Consolata Institute of Philosophy (Lang'ata) where he was killed.

There are other pending cases of missionaries who have been killed in various circumstances. The most notable ones are those of Bishop Luigi Locati who was murdered in May 2005 and lately that of Fr Jeremy Roche, of St. Patricks Missionaries who was murdered in Kericho Diocese in December 2009. The wheel of justice seems to be grinding slowly, but judging from that of Fr Bertaina, the wheel of Justice surely delivers.