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Kiplagat team digs deep to find why key politicians were assassinated

Two theories have emerged over the possible reasons why Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko was killed, according to a report released by the Truth team on Tuesday.

The report says the killing of Dr Ouko — one of the most gruesome events of the Moi administration — was partly linked to the molasses project in Kisumu and a State visit to US in 1990.

The Washington trip took place between January 29 and February 2, 1990.

A delegation of 84 Kenyans were on an unofficial visit to attend the National Prayer Breakfast with President Bush and other world leaders when differences emerged between Dr Ouko and Mr Nicholas Biwott, at the time a powerful Cabinet minister.

“Since it was not considered an official State visit, President Moi was unable to get a private audience with the president of the United States of America. Ouko led a press conference and also met with some human rights organisations and US representatives on Capitol Hill,” the report says.

According to the Troon Report, Malacki Oddenyo, the director of administration for Foreign Affairs, told Dr Ouko’s brother, Mr Barrack Mbajah, that the minister had a private meeting with President Bush and that President Moi was aware of the meeting.

“The meeting apparently caused a great rift between Ouko and Biwott, with Biwott sarcastically referring to Ouko as ‘Mr President’ and the two having public arguments in the presence of other delegation members,” the commission says.

Dr Ouko was the MP for Kisumu Town and minister for Foreign Affairs when he was reported missing on February 16, 1990, three days after leaving his Koru home near Kisumu.

His body was found badly burnt, but the face was recognisable. His arms and legs had been smashed. A bullet had passed through his skull.

There were no signs of struggle near Nyando river at the foot of Got Alila Hills where the body was found by a 13-year-old herdsboy.

The commission says that Dr Jason Kaviti, who was the government pathologist, initially claimed that Dr Ouko’s broken leg was due to the heat of the fire, then later attributed it to blunt force trauma.

“The actual cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head which, according to Dr Kaviti, was self-inflicted. Between the state of the crime scene and Dr Kaviti’s conclusions, the government quickly went forward with the story that Ouko had committed suicide,” the report says.

Another theory behind the killing was his involvement in the molasses project in Kisumu, which was seen as an agrochemical project undertaken between the Madhvani Group and the Kenyan Government.

According to Troon, there was evidence contained in the statement of John Reru that suggested that money being invested in the project by the Minister of Industry was for an unknown reason being either “diverted” or overspent.

Eventually, the money dried up and the project was abandoned. Mr Troon concluded that either corruption or mismanagement of funds explained the project’s fate.

Although Dr Ouko’s killing easily comes to mind, Pio Gama Pinto, who was shot dead outside his home in Westlands, was the first Kenyan to be assassinated. He was killed on February 25, 1965.

Theories surrounding his death included competition among local politicians over the cold war between the West and communist East and local supremacy and power struggles.

“Pinto assassination demonstrates all of the complexities and tragedy of political assassinations in post-independence Kenya. Its context included: a global cold war that was mirrored in domestic political debates; a domestic struggle to consolidate power and narrow dissent; and a resort to violence to address political differences,” the TJRC report says.

The commission says the Kenyatta Administration was the target of ideological and strategic interests of the capitalist West and communist East during the Cold War.

While President Kenyatta leaned towards the West and capitalism, his Vice-President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, was more sympathetic to the East and socialism.

Pinto was said to be Mr  Odinga’s foremost tactical adviser and link-man with Eastern embassies “that bankrolled his socialist ideas”.

Indeed, it is reported that Mr Pinto had organised a meeting between Mr Odinga and a Chinese delegation that discussed Kenya adopting a more socialist path, entering into a defence pact with Kenya, and the possibility of using Kenya as a conduit for Chinese arms to liberation movements in Africa.

It was later alleged in the press that the Lumumba Institute, which Pinto headed, was teaching scientific socialism to party members.

Mr Kenyatta did not take kindly to such activities, and asked Mr Tom Mboya to draft a policy on African socialism to counter Mr Odinga’s socialism.

It was to be tabled in Parliament in April 1965.

When the Odinga group got wind of this move, they asked Pinto to write a counter draft to be tabled on the same day as Mboya’s and mobilised parliamentarians to vote against the government.

“It was during the heat of these early debates about the direction of Kenyan economic and political policy that Pinto was assassinated. He was shot outside his home in Westlands in front of his 18-month-old daughter, Tereshka,” the report says.

Prominent politician

Thomas Joseph Mboya became the second prominent politician to be assassinated during the Kenyatta administration.

Mr Mboya is said to have posed a challenge to the existing government and its supporters at three levels.

“Firstly, his following in the trade unions and his childhood on a sisal estate on the borders of Machakos and Kiambu, which enabled him to converse colloquially in Gikuyu and Kikamba as well as in Swahili and Dholuo languages, meant that he was able to secure support from outside his own ethnically restricted sub-nationality,” the report says.

Secondly, his international reputation and his close relationship with American labour organisations dating from the 1950s, and his network of former ‘airlift’ students who had benefited from his patronage, meant that it was harder to isolate him as was done with Mr Odinga and Mr Bildad Kaggia by allegations of socialist tendencies.

“Thirdly, at the national level, Mboya appeared to threaten the dominant position of the Kiambu elite with his ability to appeal to Kenyan national solidarity,” the report adds. Mboya was to be eventually shot dead in broad daylight in downtown Nairobi on the morning of 5 July, 1969.

Nahashon Isaac Njenga Njoroge was arrested and convicted of Mboya’s assassination.

The report says before he was hanged at Kamiti Maximum Prison, Njenga confessed to hangman Kirugumi wa Wanjiku that he had the ‘logistical support’ of three senior police officers with whom he stalked Mboya on the morning of 5 July 1969 before he shot him.

“The effects of the murder of Tom Mboya have lasted until today. Specifically, it divided the Luo and Kikuyu communities in ways that are still felt today,” TJRC says in its report.

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