U.S. diplomat flees Kenya after crash kills father of 3

03.08.2013 00:57

An American diplomat who police say was
speeding crossed the centre line in his SUV
and rammed into a full minibus, killing a
father of three whose widow is six months
pregnant, officials in Nairobi said Friday.
U.S. Embassy officials in Nairobi rushed the
American and his family out of Kenya the
next day, leaving the crash victims with no
financial assistance to pay for a funeral and
for hospital bills for the eight or so others
who were seriously injured.
Latifah Naiman Mariki, 38, whose husband
was killed in the crash, was almost evicted
from her house this week after her landlord
demanded rent. Mariki's deceased husband,
Haji Lukindo, was the family's only source of
Mariki told The Associated Press that
neither the American driver nor
anyone at the U.S. Embassy has
contacted her, and she doesn't know
how she will provide for her soon-to-
be-born child and three children, ages
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," Mariki said. "And 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."
Hilary Renner, a State Department
spokeswoman in Washington, said the
embassy extends its deepest condolences to
Mariki's family and wishes a speedy recovery
to those injured. She said she couldn't
comment on whether the embassy employee
would return to Kenya.
"The embassy is fully co-operating with the
Kenyan authorities as they investigate the
accident and work to aid the victims," she
The American driver of the SUV, Joshua
Walde, was an information management
officer at the Nairobi embassy when he got
in the crash on his way home the evening of
July 11. He gave a statement to police but
because he has diplomatic immunity, he was
not detained.
Diplomat 'driving very fast'
A police dossier on the case shown briefly to
an Associated Press reporter contained
sketches of how police believe the accident
happened. The sketch shows the American's
SUV turning at a rounded four-way
intersection on the edge of Nairobi and
driving into the lane of oncoming traffic.
A police officer familiar with the case who
insisted he not be identified by name because
he is not an official spokesman said of
Walde: "He was driving very fast." Pictures in
the dossier show that the SUV hit the front
corner and side of the minibus, smashing in
its frame. Kenyan minibuses, known as
matatus, also frequently drive fast and
A Facebook group of Kenyan mothers took up
Mariki's case this week and are trying to
raise funds for her. In dozens of comments
online, 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?"
Walde is an 11-year employee of the State
Department who has worked in Kazakhstan,
Uruguay and Croatia. Shortly after the crash,
Walde 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 resumé and pointed to that as
evidence that Walde would not return to face
charges or help victims, the LinkedIn account
was deleted, though a cached version is still
available through Google.
Walde's wife circulated an email to sell a
family vehicle and try to find new work
locations for the family's nanny and gardener
after the crash. AP sent an email to Walde's
wife on Thursday asking if the family wanted
to comment. No response was received.
Bilateral relations at risk
The U.S. government is concerned about the
impact the accident could have on bilateral
relations with Kenya, a U.S. government
official said. The official noted that embassy
employees are typically evacuated for
medical evaluations after traumatic events
but are also flown out of a country to avoid
any possible retribution or attack from others
involved in an accident.
The police say the case remains under
investigation. The Nairobi traffic police chief,
Patrick Lumumba, said he is seeking
assistance from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs to liaise with the U.S. Embassy. He
said authorities didn't detain Walde because
"we don't take diplomats into custody."
A police spokeswoman, Ziporah Mboroki, said
no charges had been filed against Walde the
last time she checked.
"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."
A State Department guidance paper for U.S.
law enforcement officials on how diplomatic
immunity works says 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. 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."
Farzana Jiwa employed Lukindo, the man
killed in the crash, as a driver for the last
seven years. Jiwa -- who gave money to pay
for Lukindo's funeral and to help pay his
family's August rent -- is angry that neither
Walde nor the U.S. Embassy is helping the
"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," Jiwa said. "They
couldn't jail him, they couldn't take his
passport from him. All we want is for him to
take some responsibility."
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 and
dangerous alleyways turn into a swampy mud
pit when it rains. She must pay about $500 a
year to send her two school-age children to
class but doesn't know how she will afford it.
She said she would like to see Walde
prosecuted in court.