American Diplomat in Kenya Kills Man In Car Crash, Leaves Country Scot-Free

An American diplomat rushed out of Kenya after causing a head-on collision with a mini-bus in Nairobi, killing 1.

Example of Matatu

A matatu, or minibus, such as this one in Nairobi, was hit head on by an American diplomat's SUV, killing 1 and injuring at least 8. (Source: meaduva, under CC license)

Diplomatic immunity is such a finicky thing.  It allows diplomats in other countries, with different customs, to travel and deal with foreign matters unmolested and in relative safety, ensuring they get their job done.  However, diplomatic immunity has been unfortunately used to excuse crimes committed that would be liable to prosecution and jail time at home as well as abroad.  The most a victim or victim's family can hope for in most cases is that the perpetrator of the crime is fired from their position, since revoking one's diplomatic immunity to allow for criminal prosecution is an absolute rarity, saved only for actual atrocities.

Such an unfortunate implication occurred last month in Kenya, which has only been recently brought to light by the Kenyan media.  On July 11, Joshua Walde, an officer at the American embassy in Nairobi, was driving home from the embassy one night in an SUV.  While driving, Walde went too fast while turning in a roundabout (or rounded four-way intersection), and entered oncoming traffic.  Walde hit the front corner and side of a Kenyan mini-bus, or matatu, killing one man and injuring at least eight people.  Investigations revealed that, despite the erratic driving nature of matatu drivers, it was clear that Walde was responsible.  Immediately after the accident, Kenyan police questioned Walde, who left a statement, then invoked diplomatic immunity, allowing him to leave the scene without being charged.  Walde then contacted the embassy, who then evacuated his family and he out of Kenya the very next day.

Consequently, because of the diplomatic immunity and evacuation, Walde is off the hook from supplying the family of the dead man, Haji Lukindo, with any financial assistance, as well as paying the hospital bills of those injured.  In particular, Lukindo served as his family's sole source of income, and his never-employed 38-year-old wife is six months pregnant.  This has enraged several Kenyans, who have demanded accountability on the American embassy's part.  Facebook groups speaking for the widow, Latifah Naiman Mariki, did not ask for justice, however, just acceptable compensation so that she can provide for her family in this troubled time.  The State Department, when asked to comment, extended condolences to Lukindo's family, and was cooperating with police at this time, but did not say whether Walde would return, though evidence suggests this seems unlikely. 

Admittedly, the Walde family attempted to reconcile at least some of the problems caused by their rushed exit by requesting assistance for their nanny and gardener.  However, the fact that Joshua Walde's response to this accident is to leave the country as fast as possible and not take any responsibility for the crash, which was probably an accident and not a crime, represents a recklessness that is runs in contradiction to our diplomatic corps, and against the spirit of being a diplomat, period.  Walde should be held accountable to some degree, even if it's, say, just using the money from selling their SUV to pay for the widow's expenses.  Given how much a diplomat earns, it's not too much to ask.

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