The report of the ‘Parliamentary Select Committee Investigating the Death of the Late Hon. Dr. Robert Ouko’ has finally been tabled in Parliament by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara, some five years after what was known as the ‘Sunguh Commission’ was disbanded.
The timing of this latest development in the long-running Robert Ouko murder saga is suspicious in the view of the Forum. It seems to be more to do with politics than the desire for truth and justice but be that as it may, the Forum welcomes the debate in parliament, just as it hopes the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will also investigate what really happened.
However, and it is a big HOWEVER, the Forum believes that be it Parliament or the TJ&RC, neither will ever get to the truth if the media in Kenya continue to regurgitate as fact that which has been proven to be otherwise, and is now in the public domain.
The facts on the Robert Ouko murder story are available, why aren’t they reported on?
We have questioned before what it is that brings about this incapacity to correctly report on forensically provable facts (see our article: ‘Robert Ouko Murder: irresponsible reporting overlooks case facts‘). When we made that last complaint of journalistic standards in this country, it was to no avail; there was no resulting attempt to reconsider source material or look into the veracity of facts reported on.
The Forum does not know whether the reporting of the last two days has resulted from just shoddy journalism, laziness or something more sinister. We suspect the former rather than the latter.
We counted at least 25 ‘facts’ reported in the nation’s newspapers over the last two days (9th and 10th December) that reputable and professional journalists and their editors should know by now as provably untrue. Many of the true facts have been in the public domain for nearly 20 years and all of them were available by the time the Sunguh Commission commenced its work in 2003.
But just to help our fellow journalists (and further to assist them, we name names) and to inform the debate in Parliament, here are just a few of the points they might like to consider.
So, to the editors of The Nation, The Standard, The Star and The People, and to reporters Oliver Mathenge (Nation), Bernard Namunane (Nation), Isaac Ongeri (Star) and Dinah Ondari (People), do read the Sunguh Report and perhaps you can make amendments to the below-listed, and provably untrue, statements that we have lifted from your articles on Robert Ouko’s murder:
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, fact no. 1: Dr. Ouko was shot where his body was found
This fact, standing in direct contrast to the statement ‘Evidence adduced before the committee by several witnesses point to the fact that the deceased [Dr Ouko] may have been killed in one of the rooms at State House, Nakuru’, is forensically provable, and has been by two different forensic teams.
Forensic evidence produced by both Scotland Yard and the Kenyan Police proved that Dr Ouko was shot a few feet from where his body was found at the foot of Got Alila Hill, 2.8 km from his farm at Koru. This was shown by both the presence of evidence of a shot having been fired nearby and by the blood flow on his face which would have made it impossible for his body to have been moved far.
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, fact no. 2: Ouko’s body was found, charred from burning, on the 13th of February 1990
This fact, as with the last, is irrefutable. However, it has not stopped the reporting that Ouko’s ‘charred remains were found by a herdsboy at Got Alila in Kisumu on February 16, 1990’, or alternatively, that his body was found on the 13th by Shikuku [the herdsboy] but that ‘the government announced the “discovery” on February 16 , three days later, ‘allowing for the burning of the body and interference with the scene’.
Eye witness testimony that has never been disputed proves that Dr Ouko was killed sometime between 3am and 1pm on 13 February 1990 (the times between when he was last seen alive and when a local herdsboy found his body). His body was already burning when Shikuku found it.
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, fact no. 3: Robert Ouko did fly back from Washington with the President
Here is the statement that requires contention: ‘Dr Ouko did not fly back home in the same plane with President Moi’.
Dr Ouko did land at Jomo Kenyatta with the rest of the delegation that were returning from the Washington ‘Prayer breakfast’. The Kenyan media reported the event and there are many photographs in archives in Nairobi that prove it showing Moi and Ouko walking off the plane together and then greeting the awaiting crowd. Saitoti is shown welcoming them and hundreds of other people would have witnessed the event.
Mrs Christable Ouko stated in her first statement to the British detective John Troon (March 2, 1990) that, “When my husband returned with the President from Washington, he came to our home in Nairobi and said that the President had given him two days off and wanted to go home to the farm in Koru”.
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, fact no. 4: Ouko retained his passport and continued ministerial duties
The reports would have you believe that Dr Ouko ‘had already been sacked’, that ‘his security detail [had been] withdrawn’, that his ‘official car was withdrawn’, and that ‘his passport had been with held at the airport after the Washington trip’.
Dr Ouko’s passport was not confiscated. Troon himself recorded that Mrs Ouko handed Dr Ouko’s passport to him on request and Mrs Ouko made a written statement to that effect on the 13th March, 1990. How could she have done so if it had been ‘retained’?
Dr Ouko continued to conduct his official functions as official records and eyewitness testimony attests, meeting with President Moi, government officials and diplomats, including the Japanese Ambassador and Canadian High Commissioner.
He also gave instructions to his staff and travelled to his country residence accompanied by his driver and a bodyguard. There is a paper trail to prove that he met foreign and domestic diplomats and written testimony, from bodyguards and the official driver of Dr. Robert Ouko, stating that they continued to operate in the same capacity they had before the trip to Washington.
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, fact no. 5: Ouko continued his role as a functionary in Moi’s Government
The presentation of the notion that Moi and Dr. Ouko had fallen out is an attempt to evidence the ‘Washington Row’ theory behind Ouko’s murder. Those that choose to peddle this entirely unevidenced theory would have us believe that Moi and Ouko had fallen out in Washington and that Ouko’s subsequent murder was a result of their falling out.
The recent reporting on Ouko’s murder would have us believe that Ouko spent his days since returning from Washington attempting to meet with President Moi, presumably seeking reconciliation. The reports state that his attempts were initially ‘futile’ but that he ‘finally secured an appointment with Mr Moi at State House in Nairobi on February 5, eight days before his disappearance’.
The facts are, however, that Dr. Ouko had been with President Moi for seven days on the ‘Washington trip’, landing back on the 4th February. He met with Moi (and others) the next day which hardly suggests that he had any problem meeting with him.
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, fact no. 6: there simply was no Washington row
It has been widely reported that Dr. Ouko ‘informed his sister Dorothy Randiak’ that there had been a row on the Washington trip.
Nobody who was on the Washington trip knew of any row. The sworn testaments from those on the trip all report that no ill-feeling developed between Dr. Ouko and any other delegates. Those same photographs that illustrate the fact of Ouko and Moi’s arrival in Kenya together suggest of the success of a completed diplomatic mission.
The only testimony suggesting of there being a row, came from someone who was not on the trip – a Marianne Briner-Mattern.
Dorothy Randiak did refer to the row in her third statement but not in her first two statements to Scotland Yard where she talked only about another row, the row within the Ouko family. She, subsequent to that third statement, denied any knowledge of a row among any members of the delegation to Washington.
Dr. Ouko’s wife made four statements to Troon. In her first two testimonies she mentions the row within the family. The third just recorded that she had handed her husband’s passport to Troon.
Only in her fourth statement did she mention anything to do with an argument between her husband and other politicians and even then she stated that she had been told so by Marianne Briner-Mattern.
The Ouko family row was also attested in statements by the three other people who were with Dorothy Randiak and Dr Ouko on the evening before he was murdered, as it was by Dr Ouko’s brothers Barrack and Collins, his sister-in-law Esther Mbajah, the family doctor Joseph Olouch, and a family friend Mr Erik Oyango.
Troon, and now it seems the Sunguh Committee, choose to believe Randiak’s third statement and dismissed the rest. So they all but ignored 10 statements that referred to the row in the family and accepted two statements that referred to a political row even though one of these witnesses subsequently denied any knowledge of such a row.
All evidence suggesting of a row in Washington draws seemingly from an account made by this Marianne Briner-Mattern. For evidence to suggest eliminating her for untrustworthiness in the stand, simply read on…
Murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, facts no. 7 & 8: there was no potential for ‘kickbacks’ in Mollasses Project theory and Marianne Briner-Mattern* is an unreliable witness
According to media reports, officials ‘Otieno, Saitoti, Biwott, Elijah Mwangale and Abraham Kiptanui had asked for ‘kickbacks’ to support the Kisumu ‘Molasses Project’. The fact of these ‘kickbacks’ not being forthcoming is why, it is incorrectly alleged, Ouko was murdered.
Swiss consultant, Marianne Briner-Mattern, amongst other witnesses, is who alleges that the above officials made these demands.
Ms Marianne Briner-Mattern was, alongside her business partner Domenico Airaghi, supposedly a director of ‘BAK International’, a Swiss-based company that pitched to Dr. Ouko, when he was Minister of Industry, to help re-start the Molasses Project in Kisumu.
The problem with the ‘kickback’ theory that really only Briner-Mattern gave testimony to (and she was not at the meetings at which she said ‘kickbacks’ had been asked for), was that the two Italian firms finally involved with the Molasses Project were both introduced by Domenico Airgahi to Minister Dalmas Otieno and they were both part of the same multinational group.
The ‘kickback’ theory rides on the existence of a ‘rival tender’, one which could offer a ‘kickback’ in exchange for favourable consideration as the decision on who to appoint for the job was made. The fact that the two companies were part of the same multinational makes a mockery of the theory that one would bribe their way into beating out the other.
Mrs Dorothy Randiak accepted this fact under cross examination at the Judicial Inquiry on 12th August, 1990. So there was no ‘rival tender’. Logically no bribe would have been asked of, or paid by a company to win a tender against itself.
Domenico Airaghi was later proven to have been a convicted criminal (and both Troon and Sunguh knew this by 2003). He was found guilty by a Milan Court in March 1987 of acts of dishonesty and attempted corruption. Airaghi was found by the court to have presented false documents in an attempt to establish his defence, and was described by the judge as having displayed “the attributes of an International Fortune Hunter”.
Airgahi’s principle witness at his trial in Milan was one ‘Marianne Briner’, who “lived with Airaghi” and described herself as a “secretary” of “International Escort” and “employment agency”. The Italian judge noted her “unreliability” as a witness.
For the entire time that Domenico Airgahi was dealing with Dr Ouko and subsequently with Troon, he was on bail as a convicted criminal. He appealed against his conviction but the original verdict was upheld on 4th April, 1991.
Airaghi and Briner-Mattern’s BAK, far from being a reputable and experienced company, was shown to have used four different names and two addresses in three years. It was only finally properly incorporated as a company on 13th February, 1990, the day that Dr Ouko was murdered.
Ms Briner-Mattern, some Forum readers might recall, also went on to claim a ‘relationship’ with President Moi, and to have been attacked by the then CNN reporter, Jeff Koinange. Both claims have been found to be entirely unsubstantiated.
So come on all fellow hacks out there, do your job. Go back to the primary sources that are now pretty much all available. Find the truth and help both Parliament and the TJRC to do the same.
*Referred to in Raila Odinga’s Autobiography ‘The Flame of Freedom’ as ‘Brenda Brimmer-Martens’ (book ‘written with Sarah Elderkin’).
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