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Did President Moi Want Robert Ouko Dead?

A Sitting Duck

ouko oyugi and kilonzoi

Dr. Ouko sitting behind Police Commissioner Philip Kilonzo (in police uniform) and Internal Security PS, Hezekiah Oyugi

After the Washington trip, Moi gave Dr. Ouko some days off, so the Dr. went to his Koru home. On 9 February 1990, the Minister was involved in a suspicious road accident along the Kisumu Kericho road when an oil tanker rammed into his car. According to Timothy Maloba, who was the Provincial Security Intelligence Officer, the accident occurred while the Minister was going to see Peter Langat, the Kericho D.C who was Moi’s nephew to request him (D.C) to help him (Dr. Ouko) mend his ties with Biwott and Moi. It is possible that this accident was an attempt on Dr. Ouko’s life. He survived.

Curiously, a few weeks before the murder, the D.O Muhoroni (where Dr. Ouko’s home was) was transferred. Kisumu also got a new D.C, Godfrey Mate. The OCPD, Emmanuel Mwachiti Chiti had been transferred to Kisumu just a few months before the murder. On the February 9, the Provincial Criminal Investigation Officer, Nyanza was replaced by Christopher Timbwa, who occupied the same position in Western Province. However, the new PCIO did not assume duty but was directed to proceed on his annual leave. By transferring some of the people Ouko relied on for information, they left the Minister vulnerable; a sitting duck.

Crispo Ongoro, then Assistant Commissioner, who was in charge of the investigation noted that things had started to go very wrong for Dr. Ouko after the Washington trip. First, Dr. Ouko’s security detail and driver had been withdrawn. At the time of the accident, the minister was driving alone, at night. In addition, his passport was withheld after the Washington trip. The passport was only handed to Christabel two days after her husband was confirmed dead. On the morning of February 12, Dr. Ouko told his wife Christabel to travel to Nairobi by road and he would join her by air the next day. In the evening of that day, Dr. Ouko entertained the company of sister Dorothy Randiak who had to check on the Minister. After Dorothy left, the Minister checked on his poultry. That day, he had received a brood of 500 chicks, and he was concerned the room they were housed was too cold. At this point Dr. Ouko with his home servants, including Selina Were, the house maid; Zablon Agalo, the administration police officer  guarding the home; and Philip Rodi, the farm manager.

Meantime, in Kisumu town, the men were readying themselves to pounce on the unsuspecting Foreign Affairs Minister. Michael Owiti, the civilian driver of Nyanza Provincial Commissioner (PC), Julius Kobia, received an unusual assignment. On February 12, 1990, at around 5.00 P.M., his boss, Mr. Julius Kobia, called him, and instructed him drive the PC’s white Mercedes Benz to Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret to some guests at the Hotel. At Sirikwa Hotel, three people approached him and inquired if the PC Julius Kobia had sent him, after which they identified themselves as the people that he had been sent to pick. He left Eldoret at 8.00 P.M. and drove to the PC’s residence where he found a fleet of top official Government vehicles. At the PC’s residence, he saw Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi, Mr. Jonah Anguka, and Nicholas Biwott. There were five cars at the residence.

At around half past midnight, he was instructed to lead the party driving along Kisumu – Kericho Road. In his vehicle, the carried the PC and two of the guests he had picked at Sirikwa Hotel. They turned at a junction towards Muhoroni. At a certain point, they were instructed to put off their lights and wait for a signal for them to proceed. Near the home of Dr. Ouko, all the passengers alighted leaving the drivers alone and walked towards the home of Dr.Ouko.

Gone with a Bang

moi and kibaki

President Moi and vice president Mwai Kibaki in JKIA waiting to receive British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in January 1988. Dr. Ouko was favorite of Thatcher. It is alleged that Thatcher wanted Ouko to succeed Moi. However, Christabel Ouko insists that her husband never even dreamed about being president

At 2:00 AM, Selina Were, the housemaid, was startled awake by a loud bang. Then she had another louder bang, and another, and another. When peeped outside, the Minister was gone. The echoes of those gunshots are still reverberating, 26 years later. When she heard the first bang, she sat up on her bed, and then she heard three gunshots on the bedroom side of the Minister’s house. At first, she did not come out due to fear and because there was an armed guard in the compound. She peeped at her window and saw Philip Rodi (farm manager) tiptoeing followed by men who were in green uniform moving towards the store. After a while, she saw Hezekiah Oyugi standing in front of her door. The security lights were on by then. There was no single vehicle in the homestead. After an hour or so, she came out of her house and went to the open visitors shed where she saw a white Mercedes Benz with dim lights turn at the lower main gate.

Mr. Rodi was in charge of the dogs at the kennel. On that night, Mr. Rodi tied the dogs hence they could not bark or bite. In the morning, Selina came into the bedroom and saw Dr. Ouko’s pajamas on the bed and the window fastener broken. The spectacles of the Minister were on the table at the sitting room. The Administration Police Constable tasked with guarding the Minister’s home, Zablon Agalo, claimed that on that night, he did not see anything, since he was guarding the cattle boma. Earlier that night, Agalo had warned Selina not to venture out, until he whistled, in case she heard anything.

Philip Rodi, the farm manager says at 2:30AM that night, he saw Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi standing near Selina Were’s house, and Mr. Jonah Anguka was with him. Anguka who wore a blue suit with a tie was moving towards the cattle boma gate. He greeted him but Mr. Oyugi gestured him to keep quiet. A short, stocky, black man was standing at the verandah of Dr. Ouko’s house hiding behind a pillar. Rodi confirmed that the man who stood behind the pillar at the verandah was Nicholas Biwott. He did not mention him in his statements due to fear. Biwott was a furious man. He feared the consequences of death. He also saw the white car that Selina had referred to and heard the loud bangs and gunshots.

The shots referred to here were fired by Dr. Ouko at his abductors. Unfortunately, they cornered the minister and pinned him down before he could shoot any of them. In any case, the Ouko was badly outnumbered and even some of his workers like Constable Agalo and Rodi whom he thought would help him were working to help his killers. Michael Owiti, the civilian driver to PC Kobia confirmed the Minister was grabbed from his house by the three guests he had picked in Eldoret. Once he was captured, they forced a gag into his mouth, tied his feet, handcuffed his hands behind his back, and dragged him to the vehicle Owiti was driving, whereupon they bundled him into the boot. Two of the guest and the Julius Kobia entered the vehicle the PC instructed him to drive to State House, Nakuru, a distance of 180 kilometers.

At Kericho, the convoy stopped briefly to refuel. All the while, Dr. Ouko was struggling and groaning in the boot. At State House Nakuru, they found the gates open and all the five vehicles whizzed inside. All the passengers in the vehicles alighted and Dr. Ouko who was now nose bleeding was literally lifted from the vehicle into the State House. They were in Nakuru until around 3.00 P.M 13 February. Nicholas Biwott’s driver was there and he could recognize him. At Kisumu, one of the drivers of the PC cleaned the vehicle he had driven the previous night at the PC’s residence. Michael Owiti kept mum for 14 years about what he saw that night because he was scared to divulge the information for fear that Biwott would kill him given the immense powers he (Biwott) wielded.

Timothy Timbwa, the Provincial Criminal Investigation Officer in Nyanza at the time, later gathered information that Daniel Moi was at state house Nakuru, when Dr. Ouko was murdered and that Moi gave the sanction for the murder. Inspector James Lando, an intelligence official in Nakuru whose duties included compiling intelligence from State House, Nakuru, came across secret intelligence documents showing that Dr. Ouko was murdered in State House Nakuru. According to the Inspector, Dr. Ouko was carried into state house, he begged for his life as his captors beat him up and slammed him against walls. One of the men who had been hired broke a leg from a seat and used it to crash Ouko’s legs. All the while, the Dr. was lying prostrate on the floor begging and pleading. To finish it off, Biwott took a gun and shot him. According to Marianne Briner, this fits perfectly into Biwott’s character, “He would not have left the “pleasure” of getting rid of his enemy to somebody else.”

However, the presence of Moi at State House Nakuru at the time of the murder, has not been conclusively established. Still, the same day Robert Ouko was murdered, a Special Branch officer, named Mr. Wajackoya , working at the ‘music room’ ( the phone tapping room), happened to tap and record a phone conversation between Daniel Moi and Nicholas Biwott. In the conversation, Biwott confirms to Moi that the problem of Ouko is taken care of for good, and Moi thanks Biwott for it. Mr. Wajackoya handed over the tapes to the British Intelligence people in exchange for asylum. Marriane Briner contends that even powerful men like Biwott and Oyugi would need a mandate to pull off the murder of a Government Minister.

When a thoroughly shaken Selina Were woke up in the morning, she did not speak to any of the servants regarding what she saw. She wanted to hear what they had seen first. Meanwhile, the Minister’s secretary and bodyguards were waiting for him to turn up in Nairobi. When he did not turn up on February 13, there was little concern; after all, this was 1990. People could go missing for a day and turn up in the evening unlike now when your family tracks every little movement you make from the sitting to the bedroom. But when the Minister who was scheduled to fly to the Gambia had not shown up by afternoon, people at the ministry and at home started to raise eyebrows. When Christabel Ouko, who by that time was at Loresho, called Selina Were later that afternoon, she had a premonition.

Unbeknownst to Christabel, at that very moment she was calling home to enquire on whereabouts of her husband, a Kenya Police helicopter was hovering over Got Alila Hills, just 6 kilometers from the Minister’s Koru home, carrying the lifeless body of the Minister. It took less than 10 minutes to drop the body and arrange the few items, some of which had been gotten from the Minister’s home, with the help of Philip Rodi, the farm manager. In the next page, find how the government reacted to the murder. 

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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.

    • 2

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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.

    • 1

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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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