Selina Were Ndalo, Dr Robert Ouko’s maid at his Koru farm home at the time of his murder, one of the last people to see him alive and one of the key witnesses in the investigation into his death has died at the age of 68.
The Daily Nation’s coverage of her passing said that the truth behind Dr Ouko’s death had ‘been marred by misreporting, bungled investigations, confused testimony, hearsay, rumours and mysterious deaths of witnesses’. The Nation was in large measure quite right but unfortunately the demise of Selina Were afforded journalists the opportunity to indulge yet again in misreporting and the propagation of rumours over the murder of Dr Robert Ouko.
GOOD STUFF, GREAT TABLOID COVERAGE, COMPLETE RUBBISH
Standard reporters Nicholas Anyour, Mangoa Mosota and Cyrus Ombati reported that Dr Ouko’s charred remains were found by the herds boy Joseph Shikuku on February 16, 1990. No they were not. Shikuku found Dr Ouko’s body at about 1pm on February 13, a fact that has never been seriously disputed.
Ouko’s eyes had been ‘gouged out’ the Standard’s report continued, although neither the British nor the Kenyan forensic teams ever said they had found this to be the case. His legs had been broken they wrote, although in fact one leg had been broken at the ankle, and his ‘skull had also been crushed’, which it hadn’t, he had been shot once through the head.
Then The Standard’s reporters then threw all caution to the wind. ‘Crime experts have over the years’, they wrote, ‘theorized that Ouko might have been tortured to death elsewhere and a helicopter used to drop his body at Got Alila’. Good stuff, great tabloid coverage, complete rubbish.
No ‘crime experts’, as opposed to bad journalists, ill-informed gossips or rumour mongers, has ever seriously come up with such a theory. Aside from the fact that a helicopter hovering a few hundred meters from a nearby village might just have been noticed by someone at the time (but it wasn’t) there’s the slight matter of the piece of crucial forensic evidence deduced by the Scotland Yard team.
DR OUKO MURDERED WHERE HIS BODY WAS FOUND
The forensic evidence produced by Scotland Yard, based particularly on the blood flow on Dr Ouko’s face but also taken into consideration evidence of a shot having been fired at the scene where the body was found, proved that Dr Ouko had been shot where his body lay, or a few feet from that spot.
Detective Superintendent John Troon’s investigation (and his ‘Final Report’) was in many respects disastrously handled but the forensic evidence and conclusions derived from them have never been questioned. Troon concluded, on the basis of his forensic team’s findings, that there was ‘no evidence to suggest that Dr Ouko had died at any other venue than the scene’.
THE NATION STACKS UP THE STORY
The Nation’s report by Nyambega Gisea and Brian Yongah was somewhat more accurate but it also went for a bit of exaggeration saying that Dr Ouko’s sister Dorothy Randiak, who visited him the night before he was murdered, had seen ‘stacks of files and papers on the desk’ in his study (later claimed to be a ‘corruption report’), a fact that she did not mention in her first statement to the British police made on 2 march, 1990, nor in her second statement made on 27 March. She did mention something of the kind at the end of her third statement made on 11 April but she actually said, “I could see his pocket diary on the desk [of his study], I saw files on the desk on the left, I don’t know what was in them but they contained papers”. But what the hell, ‘stacks of files’ sounds better.
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD MYSTERY
The Standard’s front page headline read, ‘Another key witness in Ouko murder dies’ as if there was some mystery to Salina’s death. For good measure The Standard noted that, ‘Interestingly, her death comes just over two months after that of Dr Jason Kaviti, the former Chief Government pathologist’ (who for a while had propounded the theory that Ouko had committed suicide) as if the two deaths were linked. They were not and there was no mystery to Selina Ndalo’s death. She had been bitten by a snake a year before and had never fully recovered. Her family was at pains to say that there was no mystery but the journalists just couldn’t help themselves.
The Daily Nation’s headline ran, ‘Selina Were’s death is yet more music to the ears of Ouko’s killers’, and the opening paragraph of the report stated that ‘those responsible for his [Dr Ouko’s] death have more reason to believe that they will not be found at any time soon, given the death of a major witness’ and that ‘her demise leaves a major missing jigsaw in the puzzle’. The Standard said, she was ‘believed to be holding crucial information about the circumstances surrounding the killing’.
SELINA WERE’S TESTIMONY – WHAT SHE REALLY SAID
Selina Were’s death, however, will change little or nothing in the search for the truth behind the murder of Dr Robert Ouko. Her part in the ‘jigsaw’ was all but completed two decades ago. She gave her original testimony nearly to Scotland Yard 22 years ago, and recounted it some 28 times, hardly varying from what she had said in the first place.
(It is true that Selina Were did name people, including Dr Ouko’s brother Barrack Mbajah, in the murder of Dr Ouko, accusations which were dismissed by the Kenyan police, but she never altered her story of what she saw and heard on the morning of 13 February, 1990).
Selina told the British Scotland Yard detective John Troon, as he recorded in his final report, that at about 11pm on February 12, 1990, she had locked Ouko’s study door and the main front door at his Koru farm where she worked as his maid or housekeeper.
She also testified that in the early hours of February 13, 1990, ‘she was awakened at about 3pm’ (of which more in a moment) by a noise that sounded to her as if it were a door being slammed. After some minutes she heard an engine, left her room, walked a few yards to a vantage point overlooking the lower gate to the farm (which she could see because of the security lighting) where she saw a white car with its lights on, turning. The vehicle drove down the access road to the farm to the Koru-Muhorini road and turned left in the direction of Muhorini and Selina said she watched it until the car’s lights disappeared from site.
Troon noted in his ‘Final Report’ that just along from where Selina last saw the white car there was ‘an unmade road leading to Got Alila Hill where Ouko’s body was subsequently found’. (Conspiracy theorists might also like to note that if the car had been heading to Nakuru, it would have turned right, not left, at the junction).
THE CRUCIAL FACTS
Selina’s Were’s testimony is interesting in several ways.
First of all, as Professors David William Cohen and E. S. Atieno Odhiambo pointed out in their book ‘The Risks of Knowledge – Investigations into the Death of the Hon. Minister John Robert Ouko in Kenya, 1990’, although she told her story on about 29 occasions, that part of her testimony, that she was awakened by a noise and saw a white car driving away, did not change to any significant degree.
Second, at no time did she say that she saw who was in the white vehicle, or how many people were in it, nor did she ever claim to have seen other people in the vicinity. If Selina was telling the truth, and she never diverted from her story, the findings of Gor Sunguh’s Parliamentary investigation 15 years after Ouko’s murder which quoted the registration of the white car and stated that there were 20 GSU officers, at least 15 named individuals and ‘a convoy of vehicles’ at the Koru farm that night, could not have been true.
Interestingly also, although Troon stated in his ‘Final Report’ that Selina Were had said the time of her awakening was ‘about 3am’, this is by no means certain, and Gor Sunguh’s conclusion that she awoke at exactly 03.11am is ludicrous in its precision.
Troon interviewed Selina but she spoke in Luo. The official translator was present but at the last minute Jonah Anguka, a District Commissioner from Nakuru who was subsequently tried for but acquitted of Ouko’s murder, interceded to translate what she was saying. By all accounts, the word Selina used to describe the time when she was awoken by a noise, was “Kogwuen”, not precisely 3am but rather “before cock crow”, or the last watch of the night, that is, any time from about 3am up to day break.
The crucial fact behind Selina Were’s evidence, however, is this. Her testimony, together with that of the herds boy Joseph Shikuku, and other local villagers, proved that Dr Robert Ouko died on the morning of 13 February, 1990: not the 12th, 14th, 15th or 16th.
IS ANYONE INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH?
Everything referred to in this article is in the public domain. Selina Were’s testimony has been in the public domain for 20 years. The fact that Dr Ouko was shot where his body was found on the morning of 13 February, 1990, two of the few facts that can be relied upon in the case, have for a long time pointed to very different conclusions than those arrived at by politicians, many ‘journalists’ and supposed ‘investigations’.
There’s a much bigger story to be told on the subject of Dr Ouko’s murder which you would have thought some enterprising journalist would want to be the first to finally tell but the Kenya Forum wonders whether there’s a hack out there who has the ability, desire or courage to do so.