By Washington Osiro.
February 13th 2020, marks 30 years since Foreign Affairs Minister Robert John Ouko was assassinated and his charred remains found by a herds boy at Got Alila.
One of the chapters in Part Nine of the book “Absolute Power: The Ouko Murder Mystery” by the former District Commissioner of Nakuru in the government of Daniel Moi- Jonah Anguka, is titled “Convenient Deaths”.
The ten-paged chapter is exactly as titled. It details the “convenient” deaths (and a disappearance) of at least nine people – all men – all linked, in one way or another, to an event that will forever define the legacy of Daniel Arap Moi – at least in my view – the assassination of Robert Ouko.
In going through the chapter, I have thus far identified the following deaths and disappearance/s:
- Pius Omollo Ngwaye: He was Jonah Anguka’s personal bodyguard for “nearly five years”. After Anguka was arrested for complicity in Ouko’s death, his bodyguard Ngwaye was also arrested and interrogated by Criminal Investigations Department (CID). Anguka was prevented from see or talking with his former employee who was eventually admitted to a hospital in Nakuru where he died of an unspecified cause.
2. Joseph Otieno Yogo: He was Ouko’s driver-cum-security guard. A key witness during the investigations, Yogo was admitted to Mater Misericodaire Hospital in Nairobi. He died of what “was reported as a ‘short illness’.”
3. Joseph Mbogo: He was a Superintendent of Police. He mysteriously died in 1993 and buried without the cause of death ever being revealed.
4. Paul Shikuku: The herds boy who supposedly found Ouko’s charred remains at the foot of Got Alila. A key witness in the trial, Anguka writes that in his two trials, DPP Bernard Chunga “failed to present him (Shikuku) as a witness, claiming that the police could not trace him.” Anguka’s book does not indicate what happened to Paul Shikuku or his whereabouts. Similarly, the Cohen/Odhiambo masterpiece “The Risks of Knowledge” does not reveal what happened to the reluctant witness and simple man who unbeknownst to him, stumbled upon the burning remains of the murdered Ouko.
5. James Eric Onyango: He was one of the people Ouko talked with on the telephone the night he reportedly disappeared. Onyango also died of a “mysterious cause” – that was never determined.
6. Hezekiah Nelson Oyugi Ogango: He was the former Permanent Secretary (PS) in-charge of provincial administration and internal security. He underwent the betrayal, ignominy and physical deterioration that only the most cold-hearted human could muster.
According to Anguka, four days before Oyugi was scheduled to testify before the commission, his boss Moi disbanded it and had the former presidential confidante arrested. Oyugi was subsequently released due to “lack of evidence” and six months after his release, he fell sick – reportedly from a “brain ailment”. The same Moi government that Oyugi (and the late Ouko) served with distinction and loyalty refused to issue him a passport to travel abroad for specialized treatment unavailable locally.
A (British) specialist finally saw him and recommended that Oyugi travel abroad (to London) for treatment. The former PS died on August 8, 1992 – reportedly from “a motor neuron disease which impaired his nervous system.” Anguka writes that Moi never attended Oyugi’s funeral service or his burial nor did he send condolences to the family of his erstwhile point person in Nyanza.
7. Masinde Muliro: The Vice Chairman for the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD) happened to be in London the same time as Nicholas Biwott – THE person of interest in Ouko’s murder.
The former FORD Vice-Chair was supposed to meet the exiled former Kenya Special Branch Officer George Wajackoyah. The gumshoe Wajackoyah claimed that he had “pieced together an account of the death of Robert Ouko from his own knowledge and from Special Branch files.” As Muliro was going through Immigration at JKIA after returning from London, he reportedly collapsed and died – instantly! Anguka writes that “the cause of Muliro’s death remains a mystery as no post-mortem was done.”
8. Nehemiah Shikuku Obati: The Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police and Interpol Chief in Kenya who “spearheaded the arrest and interrogation of the chief suspects in the Ouko murder – Nicholas Biwott and Hezekiah Oyugi.” After recording Biwott’s statement, Obati was removed from CID headquarters to a position in Rift Valley. He subsequently became sick and was admitted to Nairobi Hospital where he died a few days later – of “liver failure”.
9. Justice Fidalhussein Esmailji Abdullah: He presided over the first trial of Anguka as well as the case of Chief Warden Simon Makallah. Along with two others, Makallah had been charged with the murder of Julie Ward, a British tourist whose remains were found in Masai Mara. He was subsequently acquitted. Shortly after hearing Jonah Anguka’s defense, Justice Abdullah adjourned the case before delivering his ruling. Around the same time, Daily Nation (Nov. 14, 1993) carried a story about a speech the justice had delivered at Alliance High School. In the speech, he made the following remarks:
“(That Kenya) is a country where the guilty go scot-free, but the innocent are incarcerated, where Goldenbergs and Sololo flaunt their wealth and live lavishly but children of streets arm themselves with faeces to beg, where inciters of violence are condoned but preachers of peace are condemned…..Let us stop this rot…..Let us stop this headlong rush into the abyss now or tomorrow will be too late.”
Justice Abdullah was pronounced dead at Nairobi Hospital two days after being admitted for an unidentified ailment AND four days after his bold speech that was demonstrably critical of the political environment of the time – under Daniel Moi. The day after his death, he was buried sans any post-mortem.
10. Philip Kilonzo: The Commissioner of Police during the investigations into Ouko’s death lived significantly longer than most people linked to the man’s death. However, he also met an untimely if not somewhat mysterious death – seven years AFTER Ouko’s death.
Upon returning to his seat (and drink) at his favorite bar in Matuu (Machakos County), Kilonzo took a swig of his White Cap beer only to ask his companions, presumably those he had been drinking with, what they had done to it – since it “tasted different”. Minutes later, the man who was central to the comedy of errors that was the investigations into the Ouko murder was dead.
A piece in the Standard newspaper dated April 2010 (“How retired Police Chief was killed Mafia-style”) offers the dark prognosis that “(T)hirteen years later, the family has not seen the post-mortem examination reports and finding of toxicology texts by the Government Chemist of what was left of Kilonzo’s beer …and for a top cop, no statements taken from potential witnesses, no word on who wanted him dead …just silence.”
11. Oidho Agalo: Along with the preceding names, Oidho “died ‘quietly’ at Nyalenda estate in Kisumu before he was called to testify about the events of the night Ouko disappeared.” This is according to a February 2000 Daily Nation article titled “Chilling coincidences and deaths of people connected with the mystery of the Ouko murder.”
12. Otieno Gor: The same article indicates that Otieno reportedly saw the Minister before he disappeared, and was subsequently found dead – “….in mysterious circumstances” as well.
13. Martin Ochanda: A friend of Ouko and an officer attached to Special Branch in Kisumu, he was among the people who saw the Minister hours before he disappeared. Ochanda was subsequently “transferred to Nairobi and less than two years after the murder (and transfer), he was taken ill and died a few days later – after a “short illness”.
In total and based on what I’ve been able to find thus far, thirteen (13) people died under suspicious or mysterious circumstances and the common thread linking all of them?
They were ALL linked, directly or indirectly, to the murder and subsequent investigations of Daniel Arap Moi’s Minister for Foreign Affairs John Robert Ouko and to date, three decades since the crime, no one has been charged.