NAIROBI, KENYA, NOV. 24 -- The Kenyan government, without explanation, rescinded deportation orders today for nine missionaries who had been linked to a purported scheme by the Ku Klux Klan to overthrow the government.
The missionaries, eight Americans and one Canadian, were told last Wednesday that they had seven days to leave. They spent the past week selling off or giving away their belongings and were scheduled to fly out of Kenya tonight.
They were called this morning to immigration headquarters in Nairobi and told that they were free to continue their work in Kenya. According to three persons who attended the meeting, the government gave no explanation either for why the missionaries had been ordered to leave Kenya or why they were allowed to stay.
An immigration official, the three persons said, told the missionaries that while the expulsion order was reversed, it was "not a mistake." The government did not comment publicly.
A senior American diplomat said the reversal followed pointed diplomatic complaints from Washington.
The alleged coup plot was based on a letter written on stolen stationery from a small church in North Carolina, purporting to be a fund-raising appeal to members of the Ku Klux Klan. It detailed alleged missionary participation in a plan to topple the government of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.
The American Embassy here branded the letter a hoax.
U.S. investigators and missionary sources said the hoax apparently grew out of a squabble between seven other American missionaries, who were expelled from Kenya Nov. 13, and a Kenyan-born preacher named David M.S. Kimweli, who was last reported to be living in Georgia.
The nine missionaries who today were given the reprieve work in western Kenya where they run a clinic for children from the pastoral Pokot tribe and operate well-digging equipment.
Elders of the Pokot tribe last weekend made a personal appeal to Moi, telling the president of the missionaries' good work and asking that he cancel the deportation orders.
A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said last week that the Kenyan Embassy in Washington had asked that Kimweli's immigration status in the United States be investigated.