George Wajackoyah, the Roots Party candidate for the presidency of Kenya, has been in the news again. At a rally in Kisumu he claimed (‘Wajackoyah: I can work with Raila after polls‘, Daily Nation, June 28) that at one time he had been the ‘chief food taster for Kenya’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’.
This is by no means the first time that a claim by Wajackoyah is being treated with a degree of doubt or skepticism.
Way back, on 26 April 1992 to be precise, a story appeared in The Sunday Times in the UK, in which Wajackoyah claimed, as a result of his work with Kenya’s Special Branch (now the Kenya National Intelligence Service), to have knowledge as to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Dr Robert Ouko in February 1990.
In The Sunday Times story, Wajackoyah alleged that he had ‘pieced together’ his account of Ouko’s murder from telephone interceptions and from Special Branch files.
George Wajackoyah claims that Dr Robert Ouko was shot in front of President Moi
As reported by The Sunday Times, the central point of Wajackoyah’s dramatic allegations was that prior to his murder Dr Robert Ouko had been picked up at his farmhouse in Koru by armed men who broke his ankle with a blow from “a tribesman’s cane”, then bundled him into the back of a Mercedes and drove him 90 miles to “one of Moi’s homes”, where the unfortunate minister was “beaten senseless”.
At this point in Wajackoyah’s rendition of the story to The Sunday Times, Hezekiah Oyugi, then Kenya’s feared Permanent Secretary in The Ministry of Internal Affairs, “dumped the body two days after the murder” and “ordered the corpse to been set on fire”.
According to Wajackoyah, Oyugi then phoned Biwott and told him, “Don’t worry… That bastard is already sorted”, whereupon, again according to Wajackoyah, Biwott called Moi and reported: “The work is completed”.
Wajackoyah’s tale became the ‘Shot at State House [Nakuru] theory’, later taken up with relish by the Parliamentary Select Committee ‘investigation’ (2003-05) into Dr Robert Ouko’s murder.
Wajackoyah’s Ouko murder claims and the ‘evidential inconsistencies’
It was a dramatic story indeed, but it suffered from ‘evidential inconsistencies’ and linguistic improbabilities, and there were also some doubts as to Wajackoyah’s whereabouts at the time of Dr Ouko’s murder.
As soon as Dr Robert Ouko’s body had been found near his Koru farmhouse by a police search on February 16th, President Moi called in a team from New Scotland Yard’s International and Organised Crime Branch to investigate the ministers murder.
The investigation was led by Detective Superintendent John Troon, accompanied by Dr Iain West, a British Home Office Forensic Pathologist.
Troon, based on Dr West’s post-mortem findings, together with local eye witness testimony, was able to conclude that Dr Robert Ouko had been shot dead on the morning he disappeared, February 13th, 1990, and that the fatal shooting had taken place very near (probably only a matter of a few feet) to where his body was subsequently found on February 16th.
In his ‘Final Report’ (paragraph 290) Detective Superintendent Troon concluded, ‘There is no evidence to suggest that Dr Ouko had died at any other venue than the scene’ where Ouko’s body was found.
Contrary to George Wajackoyah’s allegations, Dr Robert Ouko’s body could not have been moved very far after the fatal shot to his head and certainly was not left for two days after his murder before his body was transported back to Koru and “dumped”.
Wajackoyah’s Ouko murder theory: broken down by use of implausible language
Then there’s the implausible use of language deployed in Wajackoyah’s story.
Wajackoyah quotes Hezekiah Oyugi as telling Biwott “That bastard is already sorted”, adding, “We shall roast any finger raised on the matter”. Such dialogue sounds more like the script from an East End of London gangster movie, and a surprising use of English between senior Kenyan Government Ministers.
More tellingly, if by some method Wajackoyah had been able to listen in to a phone conversation between President Moi and Nicholas Biwott (would they have discussed such matters on an ’unsecure line’?), their conversation would have in all likelihood been in Kalenjin, a language that Wajackoyah, in 1990, did not speak.
Where was Wajackoyah at the time of Robert Ouko’s murder?
One area of doubt yet to be clarified relating to Wajakoyah’s Ouko story is whether he was actually in Kenya at the time of Dr Robert Ouko’s murder, and therefore able to listen in to alleged conversations between Moi, Biwott and Oyugi. Certain reports suggest that Wajackoyah was studying French in Burundi in February 1990.
Wajackoyah’s bona fides
As can be imagined, George Wajackoyah’s story in The Sunday Times caused quite a stir both in the UK and Kenya but doubts were soon expressed about ‘Wajackoyah’s bona fides’.
In early May, 1992, the High Commissioner in London, Simon Bullut, wrote to The Sunday Times describing Wajakoyah’s story as ‘extremely unreliable’ and ‘a load of nonsense’, and called on the newspaper to ‘stop publishing such rubbish’.
By May 24, 1992, ‘increasing doubts in official and media circle here [in London] over the credibility of George Luchiri Wajackoyah’ were aired in The Standard on Sunday, in a report under the headline Ouko: ‘Informants’ credibility questioned’.
The Standard on Sunday report said that ‘Skepticism has deepened since the initial London press reports took Mr Wajackoyah’s dramatic revelations at face value’.
The Standard went on to report that a planned long television interview with Wajakoyah was now unlikely to be screened ‘for lack of corroborative evidence’.
Someone referred to as a ‘television source’ was quoted as saying, “A question mark always hangs over people in these circumstances. But I would say that the question mark is bigger than most in Wajackoyah’s case”.
‘Debriefing sessions by Scotland Yard officers this week and recently by members of MI6, the secret intelligence service’, The Standard report continued, ‘and interviews by London journalists, have produced little if anything more than what has been doing the rounds for months in Nairobi. Hence the doubts about Wajackoyah’s bona fides’.
Wajackoyah’s ‘Psychiatric Problems’?
One journalist was quoted telling The Standard on Sunday that Wajakoyah, “is very plausible and articulate. The trouble is that he cannot substantiate his claims and accusations. It seems to me that he has stitched together a story based on rumour, gossip and speculation”.
On August 2, 1992, an article in The Daily Nation headed ‘Ouko Claims Man to Study law in UK’ by a Paul Redfern, reported the Directorate of Intelligence at Police Headquarters, Nairobi, as claiming that Wajackoyah ‘has psychiatric problems’.
For more on this story consider this article:
‘Murder of Dr Robert Ouko: what really happened’