By Martin Minns
I suppose by now I shouldn’t be surprised and perhaps the misrepresentation wasn’t as bad as I’ve read many times before but The Daily Nation’s coverage of the 28th anniversary of the murder of Dr Robert Ouko, Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who was killed on 13 February, 1990, still perpetuated the Kenyan media’s long track record of preferring the often told and erroneous stories surrounding his killing over anything so annoying as the provable facts.
Ouko disappeared from his farm in Koru, near Muhoroni, ‘on the night of February 12, 1990’ wrote Justus Ochieng. Well it’s a minor point but no, he was last seen alive by more than one member of his household staff in the early hours of February 13.
OUKO’S BODY NOT ‘MUTILATED’
The slain minister’s body was found at Got Alila ‘a few kilometres from his home’, continued Ochieng, and ‘the body had been mutilated and burnt’.
Just to get the facts straight, Dr Ouko’s burning body was found by a herdsboy on the morning or early afternoon of February 13 but this was not reported to the local authorities at the time (and the herdsboy didn’t know it was Ouko). A police search did ultimately find the body on February 16 but it hadn’t been ‘mutilated’.
Ouko’s body had been burnt using about five litres of diesel and he did have a broken ankle but the often repeated stories that his arms had been broken, his eyes gouged out, his veins removed and even that his genitalia had been cut off, are entirely untrue as forensic evidence from both the British and Kenyan pathologists will attest, as do multiple colour photographs of his body, copies of which I have.
GOR SUNGUH AND THE PSC
Justus Ochieng had done some research however, namely interviewing Eric Gor Sunguh, formerly the Member of Parliament for Kisumu East and in 2003-05 the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee that was tasked to investigate Dr Ouko’s murder.
Gor Sunguh is of course entitled to his views but Mr Ochieng should know that many eminent and knowledgeable people thoroughly disagreed with the manner in which he chaired the PSC which in my view is one of most disgraceful episodes in post-independence Kenyan history.
Referring to the PSC’s report Gor Sunguh told Ochieng, “unfortunately it was never debated”, who added, “The evidence is well documented in our report. It is upon MPs to revisit the matter”.
THE PSC’S “SHODDY” REPORT
What Justus Ochieng may not know is that there were multiple reasons why the PSC report into Ouko’s murder was not debated in parliament following the completion of its report.
As the Select Committee continued its deliberations over nearly two years (at an estimated cost to the Kenyan taxpayers of Sh8 million per day) five members of the Committee resigned. They were replaced but of the final 10 people sitting on the Committee, four did not sign Sunguh’s report.
No less a person than the redoubtable lawyer and civil society campaigner Paul Muite, stood down from the Committee.
GOR SUNGUH – “OUT OF HIS DEPTH”
Mr Muite was interviewed for the six part major TV documentary aired on Citizen TV last year (Murder at Got Alila – Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why?). “Over time I came to the conclusion that our chairman, the Hon. Gor Sunguh, was out of his depth in chairing a committee of this nature”.
For Muite the “final straw” came when Gor Sunguh would not allow the cross-examination of certain witnesses.
“There must be some Kenyans who are proceeding on the basis that if Mr Muite is there, he is a lawyer, he would see to it that certain things are achieved. And since I was not being effective… I thought I had no choice but to resign and I resigned”.
Veteran Daily Nation columnist Macharia Gaitho told the documentary makers, “Gor Sunguh himself, I think, completely mismanaged it. He went looking for glory… at the end of the day it was a big disgrace”.
The PSC hearing were a show trial. Witnesses who disagreed with the story the Committee (or some of them) wanted were dismissed as being “not a witness of truth”. Testimony from some witnesses who were clearly lying, was accepted.
The PSC’s report into Ouko’s murder wasn’t put to parliament in 2005 because too many people thought it to be a “shoddy” piece of work.
But Justus Ochieng wasn’t finished with the old story. Out came the “mysterious deaths” nonsense.
An unnamed villager from Nyhera told Ochieng, “Many witnesses have lost their lives in mysterious circumstances. We would not want to be part of the statistics”.
The ‘Mysterious Deaths’ story was much favored by Gor Sunguh. He said over 100 witnesses had indeed died mysteriously but the PSC named just 18. Of these several most certainly did not die “mysteriously”, for example the British pathologist Dr Iain West who died of cancer in 2004.
One of those list as having died mysteriously was former New Scotland Yard detective Ken Linsey. Readers, and perhaps Mr Ochieng, will I am sure be pleased to know that Ken Linsey is alive and living in south London. I spoke to him on the phone just before Christmas and have swapped emails with him.
In researching the subject of Ouko’s murder I have personally interview three people who have been declared “mysteriously” dead! Only last week, Zablon Agalo Obonyo, Ouko’s security guard, who was reported “mysteriously dead” several years ago, was buried in Kapuonja.
I live in hope that one day a journalist in Kenya will realise that there is a much bigger story to be told about the murder of Dr Robert Ouko – it’s called the provable truth.
Gor Sunguh told Justus Ochieng that, “His [Ouko’s] killers are well known”. I think not. But in my view they are still alive.