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Did President Moi Want Robert Ouko Dead?

Shortly Before the Murder

By 1989, someone had decided that Dr. Ouko had to die. In January of 1989, Mr. Nelson Yego Mateb, District Security Intelligence Officer, Nakuru received information through a colleague from the Americans that there is a scheme to assassinate a senior Kenya Government official by the Permanent Secretary in charge of Internal Security, Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi. He arranged to convey the information to President Moi through the head of the AIC Church, Bishop Birech who was close to Moi. He decided to convey the information directly due to fear that it might not reach the President through normal channels and he also feared the victim targeted for assassination could be the President himself.

He met Bishop Birech in his office, who contacted the President. He met the President at State House Nairobi, where Moi indicated he wanted to meet him again. The meeting was between the President and the two of them alone. He was to meet the President again after three weeks but it never happened as he was arrested and charged with extortion. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, but upon appeal, was released in 1992, and then terminated from service. By that time, Dr. Ouko had been dead for two years.

Murdered By His Family?

kajwang, maurice seda and maxwell mbogo robert ouko murder

From left, Lawyers for the Ouko family Maxwell Mbogo, and Otieno Kajwang with Maurice Seda, Ouko’s brother in December 1990

Whenever there is a murder investigation, the first suspect is always the spouse of the victim, because the spouse has both motive and proximity, two essential conditions for murder. Even when the spouse isn’t an obvious suspect, he or she is the first person to be questioned because he/she likely knew where the victim was and with whom at the time of the murder. In this case, the spouse was Mrs. Christabel Ouko. In many cases, the motive for spousal murder is either money/property, or extramarital affairs. The spouse is especially likely to be aware of extra marital affairs, which would be motive for the cuckold men, whose wives you are ‘stealing’ to kill you. Money is out of question here. So did Dr. Ouko have side-affairs? Yes. According to Daniel Moi’s biographer, Andrew Morton, Dr. Ouko was a well-known womanizer, a term that describes those who fail the test of monogamy. Extra marital affairs for men are not shocking, or totally unexpected.

Andrew Morton alleged that Dr. Ouko had an affair with Betty Oyugi, Hezekiah Oyugi’s third wife. No one else has made this claim. Another claim that has been made by several sources is that he had an affair with his personal assistant, Susan Anguka, who was Jonah Anguka’s wife. The police report investigating his murder also alleged that the Minister was having affairs with several married women; again, there was no evidence to support these claims.

Nevertheless, we do know that Dr. Ouko had one mistress, Herine Ogembo, a nurse he had met in 1982. In 1983, he got a daughter by this mistress and continued the affair and even supporting his daughter right up until his death. Most of the Dr.’s friends and relatives knew about this affair, but Christabel did not. It was not until a few months before his murder that the Minister confessed to his wife of this affair. For all we know, this confession did not change the Dr.’s relationship with Christabel. Christabel seems to have accepted the fact that there was another woman well. This could be borne out of the fact that it was not uncommon for Luo men of that generation to take on second wives. We have already mentioned that Hezekiah Oyugi himself had three wives. In all, there is little evidence to link any of these affairs, alleged or otherwise, to the murder. However, this does not stop Moi’s biographer from alleging that Hezekiah Oyugi and Jonah Anguka murdered the Dr. for having an affair with their wives.

Once the spouse is cleared, the next suspects in a murder investigation are the siblings, best friends, and close business/work associates. Just a little note; majority of the murders are committed by people who spend a lot of time with the victim and those who know him or her very well, even the first murder in the bible was done by a brother. The Dr.’s work associates were his cabinet and Government colleagues and their role in the murder is thoroughly covered elsewhere in this story. Let us turn to his siblings. Did any of his siblings have a possible motive? Yes.

christabel ouko

Christabel Ouko with daughter Winnie and son Andrew during an interview with The Daily Nation in 2009.

Dr. Ouko had three siblings. There was his sister, Dorothy Randiak, who very close with the Minister, and then there were brothers, Barrak Mbajah and Maurice Seda, both of whom did not see eye to eye with the Minister. According to Christabel, the serious rift between Dr. Ouko and his brothers was partly due to jealousy, because the Dr. had a bigger position. Dorothy Randiak remembers the incident that caused the brothers to split for good. In 1985, Barrack was working as a deputy provincial commissioner, and his ambition was to become provincial commissioner. However, that year, he was transferred, to the Attorney General’s office as deputy secretary. An equal position to the one he held, but lower in privilege. Obviously, he appealed to his brother who was a Minister to stop this transfer but Dr. Ouko failed to help. From that day, Barrack was bitter with the Dr. Incidentally, Barrack was able to influence Maurice to his side, so it was two brothers against one. In the 1988 election, when Dr. Ouko was fighting for political survival, Barrack openly campaigned for Joab Omino, his brother’s rival. Up to the moment of his death, Barrack and Maurice were still bitter with the Minister and did not speak at all.

The bitter sibling rivalry between the Dr. and Barrack presented the Government with an opportunity to accuse the latter for the murder of his brother. When the suicide theory failed to hold, the entire Government machinery turned on Barrack Mbajah as the culprit. He was arrested, brutally tortured, and detained without food to force him to confess. Indeed, for a few months after the murder, it looked like Barrack was the main suspect, and all investigations, focused primarily on the rifts in the family, until investigators got an unexpected break that changed everything. For all its worth, the brothers were innocent. As often happens, sibling rivalry ends once disaster hits home. After the Dr. died, it is Barrack who carried the family’s burden of finding the truth. He paid a huge price for his endeavor. After he was released, he went into exile and only came back after Moi was out of Government. If not his family, who and why?

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10 Comments on Did President Moi Want Robert Ouko Dead?

  1. 1

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    Justice has already been done, the good book say’s that the same yardstick you use for others it shall be used on you, the same measure you use on others the same shal be used on you, and even swahili saying say’s malipo ni hapa hapa duniani, probably the reason they( the killers) are alive for judgment to take effect on them. Poor souls.

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    Whenever i read a story abt dr.ouko,am left with a deep anger inside. esp knowing dat de killers were never brought to justice. I was jus 7 years old then,but i still rem the newspaper headline of friday,Feb 16,1990 abt de horror that was on ouko’s body. it was shocking,really shocking. Good work p.k. What did they gain from the killing esp people like Oyugi,who were killed as well.

    • 1

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      Sorry, i meant the newspaper headline of sunday,feb 18th,1990.

    • 3

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      Thanks for that insight. Personally, I think this murder hurt a lot of people of people because Ouko was a good man. . . People like Hezekiah Oyugi and Jonah Anguka thought that by helping in the murder, they were securing their long-term stay in KANU government. Unfortunately, the same government turned against them viciously after the murder.

  3. 0

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    True,exclusive and reliable piece of information about the ministers death

  4. 1

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    wow! i was an 11 year boy when he died but i still recall being asked to leave school after riots rocked Nakuru town where i was schooling…nice work.

    • 2

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      Thanks for your feedback. In 1990, I was only a kid. I started to hear about Ouko in 2003 when Moi left. I was an avid reader of newspapers then. When doing research for the story, I could not believe that these things could happen and no one was ever held to account. The worst thing is that in the end, Justice is not done.

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