U.S.-Based Kenyan Capuchin Friar Decries Use of His Image for COVID-19 Positive Priest

Kenyan-born Franciscan Capuchin Friar, Fr. Robert Onyango Sewe, whose picture was used by multiple media outlets in Kenya to tell the story of the Kenyan priest who is among the 26 individuals in the East African nation infected with COVID-19.
Credit: ACI Africa

A Kenyan-born Franciscan Capuchin Friar based in the U.S. has lamented the use of his picture by multiple media outlets in Kenya to tell the story of the Kenyan priest who is among the 26 individuals in the East African nation infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

“I wish to state that I am Fr. Robert Onyango Sewe, a Franciscan Capuchin Friar and currently I am based in the United States of America. I am saddened and shocked to learn that my picture and my name is trending in the social media for wrong reasons,” the Friar said in a video message and confirmed to ACI Africa in a phone interview Tuesday, March 24.

He identified K24 TV, a Kenyan television station known to have pioneered live streaming of programs on the Internet, and a Facebook post by Yassin Juma among forums where his picture was used in telling the story of Fr. Richard Oduor who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Making particular reference to Yassin Juma, Fr. Robert said in the 1 min 28 sec. video, “I don't know who the blogger is, but I call upon him to withdraw this picture with immediate effect and apologize.”

“My dear people, this is the biggest scam ever I am witnessing in my life,” the Capuchin cleric who is currently based in La Canada, California at St Francis High School said in his video and added, “I am taking a stern legal action against whoever the blogger is.”

“K24 TV also used my photo and this is still on their online forum,” Fr. Robert told ACI Africa and later shared the YouTube link where his photo appears multiple times in a 4-min-17-sec news story narrated by Apollo Kamau.

“At a time when there is so much stigma around this coronavirus, using my picture has damaging implications both in Kenya, Africa and here in the U.S.,” Fr. Robert told ACI Africa, adding that Many people have contacted him expressing concerns about his health situation.

The 45-year-old Kenyan Capuchin Friar who traveled to the U.S. last August expressed his “solidarity with the victims of coronavirus” and promised his prayers to all those affected by COVID-19 globally.

Meanwhile, the Capuchin Friars in Kenya’s capital Nairobi have planned to take up the matter procedurally on behalf of Fr. Robert, with Fr. Charles Odhiambo telling ACI Africa Tuesday, March 24 that the Westlands-based office was in the process of drafting a letter on the issue.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]