February 6, 2012


Murder of Robert Ouko: what really happened to the man at the centre of one of Kenya’s most talked-about murder cases?

More by Martin Minns

Murder of Dr Robert Ouko: what really happened

Murder of Dr Robert Ouko: what really happened

The murder of Kenya’s Foreign Minister on 13 February 1990 is still an important matter for discussion 22 years later as we approach the anniversary of that unhappy event. We may never know what happened on that fateful night but we do know that there are provable facts out there (despite the irresponsible reporting on Ouko’s murder) and, with this article, we want to present them to you.

We publish them as an aid to readers and a ‘fact check’ for journalists, in the latter case not just to help their understanding but also to avoid the annual and embarrassing (from a journalistic professional standpoint) catalogue of errors – wrong dates, wrong names, contradictory statements – being regurgitated by busy hacks.

WARNING: readers should be aware that the facts of the Robert Ouko murder may be uncomfortable reading for some.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #1: Dr Robert Ouko was shot where his body was found, or a few feet from that spot, at the foot of Got Alila Hill, 2.8 kilometers from his farm at Koru.

The Scotland Yard forensic team found evidence that a gun had been discharged at the scene and that the blood flow on Dr Ouko’s face showed that if he had been moved after being shot, it was only in terms of a few feet. Scotland Yard’s lead investigator, John Troon concluded that: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that Dr Ouko had died at any other venue than the scene’.

Therefore, Dr Ouko could not have been shot somewhere else, be it State House, Koru Farm or, for that matter, on the Moon. His body was not moved to where it was found. Nor, given the blood flow on his face, could his body have been dropped from a helicopter, or bundled in to the back of a truck for transportation to Got Alila Hill.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #2: Dr Robert Ouko was murdered on the morning of 13 February, 1990.

Members of his household and farm staff at Koru saw him alive up to at least 3am on the morning of 13 February. Dr Ouko’s already burning body was found later that day at about 1pm on 13 February by a herdsboy, Paul Shikuku whose statement was corroborated by at least six local villagers.

Therefore, Dr Ouko was not killed on the 12, 14, 15 or 16 February 1990, and aside from the forensic evidence that proved he was shot where his body was found, the fact that his remains were found on 13 February also destroys the theories that he was held or shot elsewhere and his body dumped a few days later, or that someone returned to Got Alila Hill to burn his body some time between 14 and 16 February.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #3: Dr Ouko was shot once in the head.

He was not shot twice, as many ill-informed journalists, authors and supposed academics have stated. Nor were his eyes gouged out, and nor too was his body doused with acid. Neither the forensic team from Scotland Yard nor the Kenyan authorities ever reported such findings.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #4: On the ‘Prayer visit’ to Washington Dr Robert Ouko did not meet privately with President George Bush Snr.

This provably fictitious meeting is the supposed reason for why, over the years, people have suggested that there was a ‘row’ among the Kenyan delegation.

In 2003, President Bush’s library released his official diary covering the three days of the Washington trip: it shows no meeting between Bush and Ouko. The archivist at the Bush library, Warren Finch, also stated at the time that there was no photograph of President Bush Snr meeting during the trip, and President Bush’s lawyer confirmed  that Finch’s statement was the ‘most accurate record of the events described’.

No one on the trip among the Kenyan delegation knew of any such meeting, or of a row. Moses Njunga Mahugu, in 1990 the Chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bethuel Kiplagat, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, both signed full statements declaring that Bush and Ouko did not meet during the Washington trip, and Dennis Afande, Kenya’s Ambassador in on the Washington in 1990, released a detailed account of the visit in 1998 denying any such meeting or row.

The source of the allegation, Dr Ouko’s brother Barrack Mbajah, was not on the Washington trip. The source he gave for his story, Malacki Oddenyo, in 1990 the Director of Information in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was also not on the Washington trip and anyway denied ever having told Barrack any such story.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #5: Dr Robert Ouko was not fired, sacked or banished during or on his return from Washington.

Dr Ouko landed on the same flight as the rest of the delegation at Nairobi Airport on February 4, 1990. Eye witness testimony of people on the flight and particularly photographic evidence of the delegation’s arrival at JKIA, prove this beyond doubt.

The allegation that Dr Ouko was sacked and his passport seized was again made by his brother Barrack, this time in a statement made over one-and-a-half years after the event. Mrs Christabel Ouko, however, handed over her late husband‘s passport to the British police [Christabel statement 13 March 1990] – it had not been seized.

Dr Ouko continued with his duties, meeting at State House with President Moi and the Canadian High Commissioner, liaising with his staff , speaking at a conference  and preparing for his trip to The Gambia due to have taken place on 14 February.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #6: Dr Ouko’s bodyguard and driver were not ‘removed’

In order to back up the notion that there was a ‘row’ on the Washington trip, Dr Ouko’s brother, Barrack Mbajah, (with whom many testify to their actually being a row) alleged that Robert Ouko had his bodyguard and driver removed when he returned to Kenya from Washington. Testimonies from the bodyguard and driver prove this to be untrue.

Both travelled with him to Koru on 5 February. On Thursday 8 February, Ouko gave his bodyguard Gordon Ondu time off (until 12 February) and on the same day sent his driver Joesph Otieno to pick up Mrs Ouko from Nairobi and she was taken back to Nairobi on 12 February by the same driver. On 12 February, Dr Ouko also called his bodyguard to tell him to be at the Bata She Shop in Kisumu the next morning at 8am.

Robert Ouko murder, fact #7: the two companies allegedly competing to outbid each other for the right to revamp the Kisumu Molasses plant were owned by the same entity.

The two Italian companies ultimately involved with the Kisumu Molasses project, Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) Tecnomassio SpA and Tecnomasio Italiano/Brown Boveri, were both introduced by a Domenico Airgahi, supposedly a director of the Swiss-Italian ‘BAK Group’, to Minister Dalmas Otieno [Domenico Airaghi’s witness statement, 9 May 1990] and were part of the same multinational group.

Therefore, there was no ‘rival tender’ introduced by Saitoti, Moi, Biwott or anyone else. This fact is important in undermining the theory that Ouko was murdered because he was getting in the way of Saitoti, Moi and Biwott receiving ‘kickbacks’ from bidding companies. Logically, no company would have paid a “kickback” to win a tender against itself.

This allegation, that Robert Ouko was murdered because he threatened Moi, Saitoti and Biwott with recriminations relating to the corrupt handling of the Kisumu Molasses Project were initially made by Domenico Airaghi and Marrianne Briner-Mattern…

Robert Ouko murder, fact #8: Domenico Airaghi, was a convicted fraudster who was found to have presented false evidence and documents in his defence.

On the 14th March 1987, Dominico Airaghi and an accomplice were convicted (Civil and Criminal Court of Milan) on charges of corruption. The Court found that Airaghi had presented false evidence and false documents in an attempt to establish his defence. The Justice described Airaghi as having displayed “the attributes of an International Fortune Hunter.”

Therefore, throughout the whole time Airaghi was negotiating with the Kenyan government (and talking to Scotland Yard), Airaghi was on bail awaiting an appeal, an appeal that was ultimately turned down in April 1991.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #9: Marianne Briner-Mattern was also an unreliable witness.

Marriane Briner-Mattern, or Marianne Briner as she termed herself at the time of Airaghi’s trial, was the principal witness in his defence, describing herself as a “secretary” of “International Escort” an “employment agency”. The court found her evidence to be false and the judge said of Marianne Briner, “who lived with Airgahi”, that it would be better to draw a “compassionate veil” over her testimony and commented on her “unreliability” as a witness”.

The testimony by Ms Briner-Mattern, of course, was the mainstay of Scotland Yard detective John Troon’s ‘Final Report’, and the basis for the Kisumu Molasses project corruption allegations. She was also the ‘star witness’ in Gor Sunguh’s Parliamentary Committee investigations in 2004-05.

Murder of Robert Ouko, fact #10: Airaghi and Briner-Mattern’s BAK company was largely a fake and not a major commercial enterprise as the Kenyan government, Britain’s Scotland Yard and Gor Sunguh were led to believe.

Various BAK entities used four different names and two addresses in just three years (1987-90). The addresses given for each entity were low rent offices in Baden, Switzerland. The only formally registered BAK entity was ‘BAK Group Marianne Briner + Partner’ which was finally registered as a joint partnership on 13 February 1990, the day that Robert Ouko was murdered (liquidation proceedings against this BAK company began in Switzerland on 25 February 1992 and in June 1992 it was struck of the Register of Companies).

After Dr Ouko’s murder, Domenico Airgahi and Marianne Briner-Mattern’s claim for losses over the ‘Molasses Project’ rose from $150,000 to $5.975 million.


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