A Kenyan inquest into the shooting death of controversial American Catholic priest John Kaiser, whose body was discovered by a roadside three years ago, is to open Friday.

The inquest is taking place in the town of Naivasha, west of the capital, Nairobi. Father Kaiser's body was discovered near the town in August, 2000, with a shotgun wound to the head and the gun lying beside him.

The Kenyan government and the FBI concluded that Father Kaiser's death was a suicide. But church officials and human rights groups maintain he was murdered in a politically motivated cover-up by the previous government.

Re-opening the case was one of the campaign promises president Mwai Kibaki made before the December 2002 election.

The priest had played a controversial role in Kenya's politics, implicating the previous government in fomenting tribal clashes to divide the opposition and some of its officials in criminal conduct.