Malawi social workers recruited to probe child abuse allegations

Brother Aidan Clohessy

German child rights organisation Kindernothilfe (KNH) has recruited social workers from Malawi government to investigate child abuse allegations against Brother Aidan Clohessy, who founded and worked as director of St John of God Community Services in Malawi.

Irish Authorities and SJOG (Ireland) unceremoniously recalled Brother Aidan to his home following mounting pressure from victims back home seeking redress five years ago.

Brother Aidan Clohessy
Brother Aidan Clohessy

The Investigative Team is headed by Enock Bonongwe who is Principal Child Development Officer at Ministry of Gender, Children & Community Development and seeks to know whether or not children experienced abuse while under the care of SJOG or Brother Aidan.

It is expected that the findings will help make decisions for protection of children from further abuse in the country.

Kindernothilfe only learned of the revelations about Brother Aidan when contacted by the MoS, it had not been notified by SJOG.

KNH is one of Germany’s most prominent NGOs with an annual budget of €56m provided by more than 300,000 citizen donors, the EU and Germany’s government.
Since 2007, when Brother Aidan first signed a contract with KNH, it has provided over €1.3m to support SJOG’s child-focused programmes in Malawi.
Brother Aidan who is accused of multiple counts of child sex abuse lied to KNH that he never had issues with children between 1970 and 1993 as principal of St Augustine’s school for special needs children in Blackrock, Dublin, according to the Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper.

In February this year, KNH suspended funding of SJOG Malawi saying it needs to ‘regain confidence’ ‘that its child protection standards are in place’.

The same month Irish taxpayer funds to SJOG Malawi – provided via the Misean Cara charity – were cancelled. Misean Cara has since launched a compliance audit to examine whether SJOG complied with its child protection rules.

In interviews conducted by the MoS in Malawi, young men who stayed at Brother Aidan’s home spoke of how he collected them from the street and supervised them as they showered.
Some made allegations of beating and inappropriate contact which allegedly took place as SJOG told Irish authorities Brother Aidan had no contact with children.

The first allegation was made in 1985; and, by 2014 there were further allegations bringing the number of those alleging abuse to 20.

The report by MoS and CIJM further revealed that the director of St John of God in Malawi Charles Masulani claimed knowing nothing of the “multiple counts of child abuse in Ireland” despite maintaining weekly correspondence with Brother Aidan.

And, now, Misean Cara, which in 2015/2016 spent €300 000 (about MWK 180 000 000) on community mental health outreach run by St John of God brothers in Malawi has said it is “extremely concerned” about issues raised involving Brother Aidan Clohessy.
Misean Cara is funded by the Irish government through its overseas development programme Irish Aid.

The Irish Times reported this week that Misean Cara had requested “a number of clarifications” from the order.

According to the paper, Misean Cara said that in entering into funding and contractual arrangements, the St John of God Order (SJOG) had given an “undertaking to Misean Cara that it has in place a safeguarding policy and that this policy is fully implemented in respect of this project.”

In a statement, the charity organisation said: “as a result, any funding we have provided in respect of this project has now been suspended.”

The statement further said the charity will be carrying out an “audit of compliance” by St John of God with their contractual undertaking to Misean Cara “regarding child safeguarding.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the department which funds Irish Aid, told Irish Times that it is aware of the recent allegations against a member of the order.