US diplomat kills man in car crash, leaves Kenya


By Jason Straziuso ,AP

NAIROBI, Kenya — An American diplomat who police say was speeding crossed the center line in his SUV and rammed into a full mini-bus, killing a father of three whose widow is six months pregnant, officials 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 and 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 income.

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 cooperating with the Kenyan authorities as they investigate the accident and work to aid the victims,” she said.

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 on the evening of July 11. He gave a statement to police but because he has diplomatic immunity he was not detained.

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 mini-bus, smashing in its frame. Kenyan mini-buses, known as matatus, also frequently drive fast and erratically.

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, told AP. “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?”