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Did President Moi Want Robert Ouko Dead?

Sex in the House on the Hill

Marianne Briner, Daiel Moi's mistress between 1979 and 1981. Her intimate knowledge of the inner Moi circle has been crucial in unravelling the Ouko murder

Marianne Briner, Daiel Moi’s mistress between 1979 and 1981. Her intimate knowledge of the inner Moi circle has been crucial in unravelling the Ouko murder

Still, corruption is only half the story. Everyone who cared to know was aware that Moi’s Government was absolutely corrupt. Something else greatly perturbed Daniel Moi. Dr. Ouko knew much about Moi’s private life, and Moi feared the Dr. would reveal this too in his report. According to Moi’s former mistress, Marianne Briner, this is what convinced Moi to sanction the murder of Dr. Ouko. Dr. Ouko was a close friend to Marianne Briner, even after she broke up with Moi. As a Minister of Foreign Affairs, he also had firsthand information about the international sex ring that Biwott operated to the benefit of Moi. For all those who were outside the close circle and the public, Moi was practically celibate during his 24 year rule after separating from his wife, Lenah Moi in 1974. But this is far from the truth. Marianne Briner was only a mistress for three years, between 1979 and 1981, after which, Moi moved on, even though in her own admission, she would have loved to continue in her role. One day, she was travelling with Dr. Ouko in his car, and he reflected, “”You know, you would have been perfect for him – you would have been a wonderful First Lady and all Kenya would have been proud of you – just think what you could have done. – If only he would not have let you go.”

So did Moi have other women after Marianne Briner? Yes, Most definitely. And this is where Biwott derived even more power over Daniel Moi. In 1979, American Forces to use Mombasa as a base and sometimes 30,000 men needed escort services, in form prostitutes. Some clever people found out that this could become a thriving business. The question how and where to get the big number of girls for these forces had to be solved. The right connections were also needed. One was William Kivuvani, Special Branch Mombasa, and close friend of Simon Mbilu, Commander of the Kenyan Navy. Kivuvani had a powerful friend in Nairobi: Nicolas Biwott, who was Minister of State, Office of the President. Together they set up a center in the New Florida Club, Mombasa.

They also solved the problem how to get the increasing demand covered. In neighboring Uganda, military regimes forced many Ugandans to flee the country amongst which many were beautiful young girls who needed to make money to support their families. When rumors reached Moi, Biwott had an excellent idea: he introduced the most beautiful girls to Moi and made sure that the “supply” was satisfying all needs. From that moment onwards, Moi was completely in Biwott’s hands. These special girls were exchanged on a regular basis and being Ugandans could be threatened to leave the country if they talk. This would not have been possible with Kenyan girls. No more question were raised by Moi.

Biwott organized and kept at the disposal of President Moi, at Nakuru State House,  and at Kabernet Garden three girls at any moment, to make sure that at least one was always available for the head of state. Upon arrival in Kenya, the girls were kept under “isolation” until their clean health status was confirmed. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ouko knew about them. In the beginning, one or two of these girls got pregnant and this was quite embarrassing for Moi. It is possible that Daniel Moi’s adopted daughter June Moi, is an offspring of these arrangements. It was therefore decided that they not only had to undergo the clean-health examination but also were sterilized to avoid similar problems in the future.

One day, Biwott confided in Marianne Briner that he was not only selecting them, but also “trying” them before passing them to President Moi. This was meant to tell her to keep off Moi, as she could not compete with these young beauties. William Kivuvani was later promoted from head of Special Branch in Mombasa to become a Director of Special Branch in Nairobi, where he became a strategic asset for Biwott who was now guaranteed of getting secret first-hand information even before it reached the President. Kivuvani even got married to one of the Ugandan girls.

In this connection, there was an incident which almost stopped this “business”. One of the Americans killed a girl, but then after a lot of diplomatic pressure, the matter was settled. The American was not put before a Kenyan Court but was given to the American Navy instead. Dr. Ouko was Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time and he had to accept this decision against his own belief and sense of justice. Now, Dr. Ouko knew about all these things. He was proving a hard nut to crack, and he was not corruptible.

The Washington Trip: The Last Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

robert ouko and moi from washington trip

President Moi is welcomed back by George Saitoti after the US trip. Dr. Ouko ((on the left behind Saitoti) had also accompanied the president. This is the final time Ouko was seen in public

Barrack Mbajah, Dr. Ouko’s brother, is the chief proponent of the theory that Dr. Ouko was killed because of a serious row he had with Moi and Biwott during a trip to Washington just a week before the murder. Of all people, Barrack was the least likely to know because he was not even on speaking terms with the Minister. Still, Masinde Muliro, who at the time was Dr. Ouko’s assistant Minister did confide in a ministry official that there was disagreement between Biwott and Dr. Ouko. In my investigation, I have established that the trip was a trigger for the murder. All along, Dr. Ouko was a marked man, but it is what transpired in Washington DC that hastened his death. On January 27 1990, against the advice of Kenya’s ambassador to Washington, Dennis Afande, Moi and a delegation of 87 dignitaries departed JKIA for Washington DC via London. Among these Government officials was Robert  Ouko; his Assistant Minister, Masinde Muliro; Nicholas Biwott; Hezekiah Oyugi, Permanent Secretary Internal Security; and Bethwel Kiplagat, Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary.

The highlight of the trip was the National Prayer Breakfast, an event organized annually by the U.S Government. The trip had little benefit and in fact, it was classified as a private trip for the head of state, since no bilateral business was expected.

In his evidence before the Gor Sunguh Committee, Biwott, to show that he was on good terms with Dr. Ouko cites how during their stay in Washington, he travelled in the same car with Dr. Ouko. This is true, but it does not indicate there was a good relationship. It was partly a logistical necessity and a protocol decision. When the Kenyan mission in DC learnt that there would be six cabinet Ministers in the delegation, they requested the US State Department to provide transportation for all of them. However, the state department declined and said it would only cater for the transport of the Head of State and for the Foreign Affairs Minister, who according to diplomatic protocol, is second in rank after the President during international visits. It was therefore left to the Kenyan mission to hire transport for other Ministers. A decision was reached to bundle two Ministers together to reduce the size of the motorcade. While Dr. Ouko was second in command according to diplomatic protocol, Biwott was in reality the second in command. It was therefore natural that he travels in the car allocated to the Foreign Minister.

During the course of the stay Dr. Ouko made the mistake of outshining even the President. According to John Troon, the Scotland Yard detective brought in from the United Kingdom to investigate the murder, during the Washington visit, President Daniel Arap Moi met President George Bush (snr) in the presence of Dr. Ouko, Mr. Oyugi, and Biwott, where President Bush suggested to President Moi that Dr. Ouko should replace Moi as President. According to Masinde Muliro, after this, the animosity between Ouko and Biwott escalated to a vicious level and at one point, Biwott sarcastically referred to Dr. Ouko as ‘Mr. President.’ Combined with earlier bad blood between the two antagonists, and Moi’s paranoia, the situation had gone from bad to deadly. Off course during the trip, American officials referred to the issue of corruption, and again a serious confrontation erupted between Biwott and Dr. Ouko. By the time, the plane carrying the President and his entourage landed in Kenya on February 4 1990, Dr. Ouko was a sitting on a time bomb about to explode on his face. Instructively, John Troon was deliberately obstructed from interviewing those who formed part of the delegation to Washington.

Biwott took advantage of the fact that Moi was quite upset and frustrated with the visit in Washington. Because he knew how to manipulate Moi, it was easy for Biwott to put all the blame on Dr. Ouko. Especially since not only in the United States but also in other countries questions regarding the corruption in Kenya had been raised, countries which Dr. Ouko had been visiting before.

Countries like France another main country with which Biwott was doing his deals such as Kiambere/Turkwel Dam had started to ask questions. Including on the supply of the Presidential Jet, officially paid for, but in the reality given as a present by the French Group Spiel Battignole were under investigations. As usual, Biwott received the information about these problems in France and Italy via his connections in these countries and in the Kenyan Special Branch before they got to Moi. Biwott had therefore time to prepare his own version and to wait for the right moment when to present his findings. This was the case in after the trip with a fuming Moi, whose frustrations with the visit just needed an outlet, and Biwott made sure that Moi’s anger went into one direction: Dr. Ouko.

These fabricated allegations against Dr. Ouko were then mixed up with information of some Intelligence Reports Biwott had received via his close friend in the Special Branch, William Kivuvani, that Dr. Ouko had been successful in finding out details on certain business transactions and corrupt deals (mainly with Italian Companies. But what convinced Moi most to kill  Dr. Ouko was the information given to him by Biwott (again with the help of Kivuvani) that Dr. Ouko also had inquired about Moi’s private life and here mainly about the Ugandan girls Biwott used to arrange for him. They feared that he could disclose everything. Find out how the complex plan to kill the minister was executed in the next page.

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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.

  2. 2

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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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