One of the concerns the Forum has about the KHRC’s report, Lest We Forget: The Faces of Impunity in Kenya, is that some of the reports and investigations, and the people behind them, on which Lest We Forget is based, were conducted with varying degrees of ‘impunity’.
Today the Forum looks at Gor Sunguh’s infamous committee hearings into the murder of Dr Robert Ouko. Postings over the next few days will also consider the Scotland Yard detective Troon’s investigations, and the Kiliku and Akiwumi inquiries into tribal violence.
THE GOR SUNGUH COMMITTEE AND THE MURDER OF DR ROBERT OUKO
Regular readers of the Forum will know from our posting on July 17, ‘Gor Sunguh owes far more than Sh3 million and an apology to Oraro over Ouko Inquiry’, of our concerns at the manner in which the Parliamentary Committee Investigating the Murder of Dr Robert Ouko was handled and in particular of the actions of its chairman Gor Sunguh.
Then the MP for Kisumu East (and married to Raila Odinga’s niece), Sunguh was put in charge of the Parliamentary Select Committee in April 2003 with a mandate to investigate the murder of Dr Ouko. It was an opportunity to get to the truth of the matter. Unfortunately it degenerated into a show trial and a ‘farce’.
From the time that the motion to create the Select Committee was moved in Parliament the line Sunguh would take was not in doubt. In his speech proposing the motion Sunguh stated that Dr Ouko had been “treated like a dog” on his return from Washington, “sent packing to his home”, and that “his bodyguards were dismissed”. Besides the fact that this statement came from the chairman of a Select Committee that had yet to hear any testimony but had already made up his mind (or had it made up for him) it was also demonstrably untrue.
Throughout, Sunguh refused to accept, or ignored all evidence and testimony that did not point to the conclusions he wanted. ‘Witnesses’ giving ‘evidence’ that was in direct contradiction to known and verifiable facts found their testimony accepted and unchallenged. Anyone who denied the Sunguh line or professed their innocence were condemned and regarded as guilty or ‘unreliable’ for disagreeing with him.
Some members of the Committee couldn’t stomach it. Six members – Paul Muite, Mirugi Kariuki, Dr Abdulahi Ali, Njoki S. Ndung’u and Otieno Kajwang – resigned during its hearings. Four others left to take up other appointments. New members were appointed to the Committee. At the end there were 10 members, of which four did not sign Sunguh’s report.
Parliament in 2005 refused to even consider Sunguh’s report. It was suddenly and curiously tabled again on December 8, 2010, (about which there will be more in a later posting) but was rejected for being “shoddy” and for having been used “to settle political scores”. Parliament was right.
THE KHRC AND SUNGUH’S REPORT
Sunguh’s report is one of the sources of the KHRC’s report Lest We Forget: The Faces of Impunity in Kenya. Out were trotted the same old stories: Dr Ouko did not return with the delegation from the ‘Washington trip’; there was ‘apparent rivalry’ with Biwott; Ouko was sacked, his security withdrawn; Dr Ouko encountered mysterious problems with his phones and electricity supply at his Koru farm; and finally, Dr Ouko was killed at State House, Nakuru.
Leading members of the KHRC should have known, perhaps they do and don’t care, that the evidence, publicly available for years, destroys such theories.
DR OUKO DID NOT MEET WITH PRESIDENT BUSH Snr
Dr Ouko did not meet with President Bush Sr during the ‘Washington trip’: Bush’s library said the did not meet, Bush’s lawyer said they did not meet, the Kenyan Ambassador in Washington said they did not meet, and no one who was part of the 83 man Kenyan delegation knew of any such meeting.
Who said Dr Ouko and President Bush Sr did meet? Well, Barrack Mbajah, Dr Ouko’s brother said so although he had not been on Washington trip but he said he heard it from Malaki Oddenyo, then Director of Information at the Ministry of Foreign affairs, who also had not been with the delegation that went to Washington and anyway denied having said any such thing.
And Dr Ouko did fly back with the rest of the delegation from the ‘Washington trip’ and landed with them in Nairobi. There are so many witness testimonies and press photographs to support the fact that it seems incredible this story has been allowed to run for so long.
THE BIWOTT ‘RIVALRY’
The allegations of ‘rivalry’ and a ‘row’ with Nicholas Biwott prior to and during the trip to Washington came almost entirely from a Ms Marianne Briner-Mattern (more about here in the Forum’s next posting) and again from Dr Ouko’s brother Barrack Mbajah (although he only warmed to the theme one-and-a-half years after the murder).
Biwott and Ouko shared cars and hotels together on the ‘Washington trip’ and sat next to each other on the flights. Ouko’s diary suggested a good relation between the two men. No one on the Washington trip knew of any ‘row’. The supposed cause for a ‘row’ (a meeting between Bush and Ouko) did not take place.
The supposed ‘rivalry’ between Biwott and Ouko over the Kisumu Molasses plant was also proven to be untrue. The two Italian companies short-listed to help with the revival of the plant were both introduced by Briner-Mattern’s partner, Domenico Airaghi, and were both part of the same multinational company. Biwott was not involved with either company. Dr Ouko’s sister, Dorothy Randiak, admitted this fact under cross-examination during the Gichuru hearings.
Briner-Mattern was later proven to be running a sham company with an accomplice (Airaghi) who was a convicted fraudster. She gave testimony but provided no reliable evidence, and never faced rigorous cross-examination (indeed, she refused to face cross-examination). And Briner-Mattern was Sunguh’s ‘star’ witness who met with him privately before giving testimony.
Barrack Mbajah’s testimony was based on hearsay (he produced no evidence) and even the British detective John Troon was forced to admit when being questioned at the Gicheru Commission inquiry that he had been untruthful (about the long-running dispute with his brother Robert).
DR OUKO NOT ‘SACKED’
Nor was Dr Ouko ‘sacked’ on his return from Washington, his passport taken from him, or his bodyguard and driver removed from his service.
There are so many documented incidences of Dr Ouko continuing his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs after his return to Nairobi from Washington that it again it is incredible that this story too keeps running. Dr Ouko met with Moi, he met with the Canadian High Commissioner and the Japanese Ambassador, he met with his Permanent Secretary Bethuel Kiplagat, he called off a press conference, attended a civic function in Kisumu and directed his staff in preparation for a trip to The Gambia.
No one questioned at the time by Scotland Yard detectives, not Dr Ouko’s wife, his sister, his mistress, his doctor, a family friend, his staff at the Ministry or at his country home, mentioned any knowledge of his ‘sacking’. Who did then? Well, Dr Ouko’s brother Barrack Mbajah in a statement written after he had run off to the USA over one-and-a-half years (23 September, 1991) after Dr Ouko’s murder. Oddly, Barrack did not mention his brother being ‘sacked’ in the 30 page statement he made to Troon on 31 March, 1990.
That’s not all. Mrs Christabel Ouko handed her husband’s passport to the British detective John and signed a statement to that effect so it had not been taken away from Dr Ouko. The Minister’s bodyguard continued to attend to him, traveling with him to his farm at Koru, returning to collect Mrs Ouko and receiving calls from him arranging his departure for The Gambia.
MYSTERIOUS ELECTRICITY AND PHONE PROBLEMS?
That Dr Ouko’s Koru farm was affected by power cuts on the night before he died is not in question. Quite how they can be claimed as evidence of wrong-doing in a country that to this day is beset by power cuts is a mystery.
And that Dr Ouko had problems with the telephone lines at Koru is also likely but he was not cut off as claimed. Numerous testimonies relate that on the day and evening before Dr Ouko was murdered he made and received several phone calls: to his Loresho home, his sister Dorothy, his personal assistant Susan Anguka, and his bodyguard Gordon Ondu, and from Eric Onyango and Ouko’s uncle George Olilo.
DR OUKO KILLED IN STATE HOUSE?
Finally, the allegation made that Dr Ouko was killed in, or at, State House, Nakuru, not an allegation made at the time of the first investigations into the murder it should be noted, was central to the Sunguh report.
When the Sunguh report was tabled in Parliament in December 2010 the ‘Killed in State House’ angle was again extensively reported in the press and on the Internet. It is a great conspiracy story involving the highest (at the time) in the land but it simply is not true and it can be easily proved that it is not true.
In a case bare of hard facts, two facts stand out that are critical in understanding what is known about the murder of Dr Ouko.
First, the forensic evidence produced by Scotland Yard proved that Dr Ouko had been shot where his body was found, or a few feet from the spot.
Second, eye witness testimony from Ouko’s maid and the herdsboy who found his burning body on the February 13, 1990, together with Scotland Yard’s forensic evidence, proves that Dr Ouko was killed some time in the early morning between 3am (at the very earliest) and daylight.
These two key facts have never been denied but they have been ignored, by Sunguh, the Kenyan media and now it seems, by the KHRC.
Dr Ouko was not shot at State House. His body had not been moved more than a few feet after he was shot, and anyway there would not have been time to have taken him to Nakuru to be killed and then return his body to Koru.
Dr Robert Ouko was murdered at the foot of Got Alila hill near his Koru home, not at State House.
GOR SUNGUH INCLUSION UNDERMINES KHRC REPORT
All of the evidence summarised here has been available to those that want to see it for many years and is in the public domain.
The multiple failings and outright skullduggery of the Sunguh Committee have been known for many years and yet still the KHRC recycles the same old stories. If they don’t know the truth they should do, if they do know the truth they should be ashamed for ignoring it.
The inclusion of the Gor Sunguh report as a basis for the publication Lest We Forget undermines the credibility of the latter to such an extent that the KHRC should consider issuing a retraction.
The Forum absolutely agrees with the KHRC that Dr Ouko’s murderer or murderers (at least one of the most likely suspects is still alive) should be pursued and brought to justice but basing the hunt for them on Sunguh’s report would be to compound farce with injustice.
*Referred to in Raila Odinga’s autobiography ‘The Flame of Freedom’ as ‘Brenda Brimmer-Martens’ (book ‘written with Sarah Elderkin’)