The basis on which the Gicheru Commission (1990-91) conducted its inquiries into the murder of Dr Robert Ouko, was largely Detective Superintendent John Troon’s ‘Final Report’ but what the New Scotland Yard detective actually concluded in it has often been misrepresented. Moreover, the manner of Troon’s investigation, the testimony he relied on and the conclusions he reached have since been in some measure discredited.
Troon admitted in his Final Report that his inquiries were not ‘fully complete’. He accepted too that much of the testimony and he relied on was ‘tenuous’, ‘circumstantial’ and based on ‘hearsay’.
In his report Troon did not actually accuse or name anyone for the murder of Dr Robert Ouko. What he called for were ‘further investigations’ to be undertaken that would ‘further endorse or eliminate some of the lingering doubts experienced at the time’.
Troon had little in the way of direct evidence on which to establish who killed Dr Robert Ouko so instead he sought to identify indirect evidence that might point at a motive for the murder.
Troon’s main two theories that required ‘further investigation’ which were at the centre of Troon’s report, were the ‘Washington Trip theory’ and the ‘Kisumu Molasses corruption theory’.
Troon’s ‘Washington trip’ Theory
First, Troon surmised, there may have been a ‘row of some sort’ between Dr Robert Ouko and Energy Minister Nicholas Biwott during a visit to Washington DC shortly before Ouko’s murder, following a supposed meeting between Ouko and US President George H.W. Bush that angered Biwott. Could the alleged row have been sufficient motive for murder?
The basis for Troon’s Washington trip theory was the testimony, some five weeks after the investigation had begun, of Dr Ouko’s half-brother Barrak Mbajah. He told Troon that he had heard of the meeting and the alleged row from a Malacki Oddenyo, the Director of Information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mbajah’s testimony was therefore hearsay. Mbajah had not been on the Washington trip. Nor had Malacki Oddenyo, who anyway denied having told Mbajah any such thing.
Troon’s ‘Washington trip’ theory, and indeed Mbajah’s testimony, that Dr Robert Ouko had met with President Bush can be readily disproved: no such meeting took place.
In 2000 the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University College Station released a copy of President George Bush Snr’s official ‘Daily Diary’ for the period of the Washington trip (30 January to 3 February 1990), a minute-by-minute account of the President’s actions and meetings over those days. At no point during this three-day period did President Bush meet with Dr Robert Ouko.
Most tellingly, on the day and at the time Barrak Mbajah said Bush and Ouko met, President Bush was not even in Washington DC.
Not one person who was on the Washington trip interviewed by Troon, or later by the Kenyan police, said they knew of any such meeting or even a rumour of a ‘row’.
In 2011, Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission concluded that, ‘the Washington Trip theory revolves around a private meeting with President Bush and Ouko that never actually occurred’. [TJRC Report, paragraph 131]
Barrak Mbajah Flees Kenya
Barrak Mbajah’s testimony did not face cross-examination at the Public Inquiry. Due to give testimony on 29th October, Mbajah fled via Uganda and was given asylum in the United States in circumstances that have never been fully explained.
Troon wrote in his Final Report that he had relied on his personal judgment of the honesty and integrity of Barrak Mbajah and that he was a sincere and truthful witness.
Both prior to the Commission of Inquiry, and after, Mbajah’s testimony kept changing, much of it provably untrue. Ultimately even Troon had to admit to the Public Inquiry that Ouko’s brother had not been entirely truthful with him.
[See also, ‘Murder at Got Alila – Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why? Episode 2]
Troon’s Kisumu Molasses Corruption Theory
Troon’s second theory was that Nicholas Biwott and others, through intermediaries, had sought to obtain ‘kick back’s’ to allow the rehabilitation of a molasses processing plant to go ahead in Ouko’s constituency and those payments not being forthcoming, Biwott supported alternative bids for the project.
In addition, Troon claimed, Dr Ouko may have been writing a report to go to President Moi on high level corruption in relation to the Kisumu Molasses project that would implicate Biwott and that it was to obtain, or stop this report, that may have provided a motive for Ouko’s murder.
The ‘BAK Directors’
Troon’s Kisumu Molasses corruption theory was entirely based on the testimony of one Marianne Briner-Mattern, a Swiss-German woman, and documents that she alone provided, together with but to a lesser extent the testimony of her partner Domenico Airaghi, who claimed to be directors of BAK an International, a company in Switzerland that had tendered to Dr Robert Ouko when he was Minister for Industry to re-start the Molasses Project in Kisumu.
Troon, just as he had done in respect of Barrak Mbajah, said the accepted the testimony of Marianne Briner-Mattern and Domenico Airaghi because in his judgment they were ‘truthful’ and ‘honest’ witnesses and that they ran a ‘reputable’ company.
Corruption And False Evidence
It transpired however, that throughout the entire time Dr Robert Ouko and Troon were in their different ways dealing with the so-called BAK directors, the company did not formally exist, and Airaghi was out on bail having been convicted by a court in Milan in April 1991 of offences of corruption and presenting false evidence.
Briner-Mattern, who described herself at the time as a ‘secretary’ of ‘International Escort’, an ‘employment agency’, gave testimony in Airaghi defence and was referred to as his ‘partner’. The judge however commented on her ‘unreliability as a witness.
Briner-Mattern and Airaghi’s company BAK was only finally and formally registered as a joint partnership on the 13th February, 1990, the day that Dr Robert Ouko was murdered.
After Ouko’s murder, Briner-Mattern and Airaghi’s claim for alleged losses over the Molasses Project increased from $150,000 to $5.97 million.
No one else claimed to know of or to have seen the ‘Kisumu molasses corruption report’ and no such report has ever been found.
[See also, Murder at Got Alila – Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why? Episode 3]
BAK ‘Directors’ – Not Cross-Examined, Story Changed
Neither Briner-Mattern nor Airaghi attended the Public Inquiry, so they did not face cross-examination.
During the Parliamentary Select Committee investigation in to Ouko’s murder in 2004-05, Marianne Briner-Mattern changed her story and claimed that the real reason for Dr Robert Ouko’s murder was his alleged knowledge of Ugandan prostitutes being procured for President Moi, with whom she claimed to have had a relationship. By then few people believed her.
[See also: Murder at Got Alila – Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why? Episode 6]
Troon Under Pressure
Detective Superintendent John Troon, now retired from New Scotland Yard, began giving testimony to the Public Inquiry on November 6th, 1991. There, over a period of several days, he read out his entire Final Report. It was duly recorded word-for-word in the newspapers.
John Troon was the media’s star performer but the Inquiry ultimately exposed serious flaws both in his original investigation and his Final Report.
He admitted that one of his principle witnesses, Dr Ouko’s half-brother Barrak Mbajah, had not been entirely honest with him and that there was a row going on between them up until the minister’s death.
Troon admitted too that he had made no inquiries to the US authorities over the Washington trip allegations.
Troon also reluctantly accepted that his Kisumu Molasses theory was based “principally” on the testimony of Briner-Mattern and Airaghi, and documents that they alone had produced. And he admitted he made no enquiries of the Swiss or Italian authorities to check into their background or that of their company BAK, nor did he read the Kenyan Government’s file on the Molasses project.
Next: Cover Ups And Criminal Prosecution – Gicheru Ouko Murder Inquiry 30 Years On (Part 3)