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US Embassy sends letter to widow after fatal crash

Wednesday - 8/7/2013, 2:50am  ET

JASON STRAZIUSO
Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- The Kenyan widow of a man killed in a traffic accident involving a U.S. diplomat said she received a letter of condolence Tuesday from the embassy.

Latifah Naiman Mariki's husband died in a July 11 crash in which Kenyan police say the speeding diplomat crossed the center line in his SUV and hit a mini-bus full of passengers. U.S. Embassy officials in Nairobi rushed the American and his family out of Kenya the next day.

The case has sparked rage among average Kenyans and government leaders. Many in this East African country are asking that justice be pursued for Mariki and the families of the eight others seriously injured in the crash.

Mariki, a pregnant mother of three, told The Associated Press last week that she had not received any communication from the U.S. Embassy after the crash. But on Tuesday she received a letter dated July 12 that the embassy delivered to police but that hadn't previously reached Mariki, she said.

In the letter, the embassy's charge d'affaires said he was saddened to learn of the death of Mariki's husband.

"I know that no words of mine can restore what you have most tragically lost, but I hope it will bring some comfort to know that the thoughts and prayers of the entire American Embassy community are with you and your family at this difficult time," Larry E. Andre wrote.

The death of Mariki's husband, Haji Lukindo, leaves her in a dire economic situation. Lukindo was the family's only breadwinner, and Mariki said she didn't know how she will support her unborn child and three children, ages 20, 10 and 7.

Mariki said the embassy letter doesn't help her situation. She said that reading it "makes me sick."

"It is not enough for us because my husband is gone," she said. "We have nowhere to go. So we need help."

Kenya's government spokesman over the weekend posted on Facebook an AP story written last week about Mariki. The spokesman, Muthui Kariuki, wrote: "The US Government must act responsibly on this matter otherwise they lose tonnes of credibility."

Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs wrote on Twitter that Mariki's situation was a "sad state of affairs" but that Kenya's government was handling the matter.

"We've been meeting with the police and hopefully the Embassy will do the right thing," Amina Mohamed said on Twitter.

The U.S. diplomat involved in the accident, Joshua Walde, holds diplomatic immunity. But 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."

A State Department spokeswoman said last week that the U.S. extends its deepest condolences to victims of the crash and said the U.S. is cooperating with Kenyan authorities as they investigate the accident.


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