Justice can take its time but sometimes it is worth the wait. The news, reported on Friday, that High Court Judge Kalpan Rawal had ordered former MP Gor Sungu to pay Sh3 million and issue an apology to ‘veteran’ lawyer George Oraro for publicly linking him to the murder of Kenya’s Foreign Minister in February 1990, was perhaps the only time to date in the Robert Ouko murder saga that justice had been done and seen to be done.
The landmark ruling also removed MP’s often misused assumption of protection by parliamentary privilege outside parliament or a parliamentary committee. Sungu had made his ‘reckless and malicious utterances’ on March 6, 2004, in the parking lot outside the Parliamentary Buildings. Sungu still claimed parliamentary immunity but Justice Rawal threw out his defence as “unwarranted and inappropriate”.
Gor Sungu, one time MP for Kisumu East and for a while married to Raila Odinga’s niece, was the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee (April 2003 to March 2005) that was tasked to look again at the murder of Dr. Robert Ouko.
George Oraro, who had been Ouko’s lawyer and remained the family’s lawyer after the murder, had argued that Sungu’s committee had received false and malicious evidence and rejected his oral and written requests to defend himself against the allegations.
Oraro’s argument was correct but by no means covered all the many failings displayed by Sungu or his often farcical handling of the Select Committee’s investigation. His crude, bullying and overbearing manner shocked and disgusted many, not least several of the people who served on the committee.
Sungu did not only refuse Oraro’s testimony, he refused and/or ignored all evidence and testimony that ran contrary to the conclusion he was out to prove.
Gor Sungu Commission, found what it wanted to find
The, by then, publicly available evidence that Dr. Robert Ouko had not met President Bush Sr, had flown back with the rest of the delegation from the ‘Washington trip’, landed with them in Nairobi, and had not had his passport taken from him, or his bodyguard and driver removed from his service, was dismissed on spurious grounds.
The evidence and testimony, known since at least 1991, that the two companies bidding for the Kisumu Molasses plant project were part of the same multinational group and that both had been introduced by the Swiss/Italians Domenico Airaghi and Marianne Briner-Mattern, and that neither company would therefore have needed to pay bribes to win the contract, contrary to Airaghi and Briner-Mattern’s (largely her) allegations, was ignored.
The evidence that Airaghi was a convicted fraudster out on bail waiting appeal from a Milan court (the judgment was upheld and he went to prison) and that Briner-Mattern was his accomplice and an “unreliable” witness according to the Italian judge, was not considered.
The fact that Airaghi and Briner-Mattern’s supposed company, BAK, had changed its name four times and its address twice in four years, that three of those entities had never been formally incorporated as companies and that the fourth was only finally incorporated on the 13th February, 1990, the day that Dr Ouko was murdered (and almost two years after Dalmas Otieno had halted the Molasses project) was likewise ignored.
Briner-Mattern was treated as a star witness and once again avoided any serious cross-examination. Those who professed their innocence were condemned by Sungu and their profession cited as further evidence against them. Anyone who denied Sungu’s line of argument was equally regarded as guilty or ‘unreliable’ for disagreeing with him. Others, however, who testified contrary to known and demonstrable facts found their testimony accepted and unchallenged. There were many, many other failings.
Robert Ouko murder inquiry: failings in fact-finding, resignations from committee members
Little wonder that six members of the Select Committee – Paul Muite, Mirugi Kariuki, Dr Abdulahi Ali, Njoki S. Ndung’u and Otieno Kajwang – resigned during its hearings and four others got out by being appointed to other positions. Other members were appointed to fill their place but even of these final 10 members, four did not sign Sungu’s report. Parliament in both 2005 and again in late 2010 refused to even consider it.
Sungu presided over one of the most disgraceful episodes in modern Kenyan history. The Select Committee and Sungu in particular, behaved in a manner that only Stalin or Hitler, with one of their show trials in mind, could have been proud of.
The damage done to Kenya by Sungu (and those who put him up to it) has been almost incalculable.
Just when Kenyans thought that the bad old days were being left behind and that justice, due process and openness were to be the order of the day, Sungu doubly deceived them, purporting to be heading a fair investigation whilst doing exactly the opposite.
Not least of the damage done was the fact that the real murderers of Dr. Ouko again went unpunished (at least one of them is still alive) and several innocent people were left with an unjust accusation of complicity in the murder of Dr. Ouko hanging over their heads.
Gor Sungu can repay the debt to George Oraro but he cannot afford the debt he owes Kenyans. He can, however, apologise to Kenyans and he should be hauled in front of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to face questioning.
P.S. In February of 2009, Gor Sungu was charged with assaulting his wife Emmy Ndisi but was acquitted. A city magistrate said there was insufficient evidence to prove that Sungu had beaten her up. Magistrate Cosmas Maundu said during her testimony Ndisi had failed to recall how Sungu inflicted injuries on her. A doctor, who was to be a prosecution witness, had also declined to testify. The court also heard that another witness Sungu’s daughter, Princess, could not be traced. She had allegedly witnessed the assault.
Emmy Ndisi claimed she did not know who inflicted her injuries. She said she found herself in Nairobi Hospital’s bed with injuries on her body. She said one of her eyes was operated on and she had swellings all over the body.
She admitted that Sungu went to see her in the hospital and even paid her hospital bills. “My husband has been calling me… He even took me to a psychiatrist. But a person came to see me when I was in hospital and told me to forgive my husband because he did not know what he was doing as he was drunk,” she said.
*Referred to in Raila Odinga’s autobiography ‘The Flame of Freedom’ as ‘Brenda Brimmer-Martens’ (book ‘written with Sarah Elderkin’)
For further information into the murder of, and subsequent inquiries into, the Robert Ouko murder case, see below: