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Friday, July 28, 2017

Four powerful men take secrets to their graves

An illustration by the Star
An illustration by the Star

Four prominent Kenyans who died in the past two weeks wielded awesome power in government and influence beyond, but their lives were dogged by controversy.

All have been and will be eulogised and wept over, since speaking ill of the dead is frowned upon.

However, all four were adversary mentioned in the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report for various but interrelated gross human rights abuses.

On Friday, ex-Permanent Secretary Bethuel Kiplagat, a long-serving Ambassador and Foreign Affairs PS, passed away.

First of the quartet to die was Senator GG Kariuki, 78, powerful minister for Internal Security during the Moi era. That was on June 30.

On July 8, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, 67, died of a heart attack.

On July 11, 'Total Man' Nicholas Biwott, who eight Cabinet portfolios in his 28 years in politics, passed on, aged 77.

One thing stands out the lives of the four men: controversy.

GG Kariuki was buried on Friday at his Rumuruti home, Laikipia county.

Nkaissery will be laid to rest on Saturday.

The TJRC fingered all four, and others, in connection with massacres and rights abuses. All denied wrongdoing.

The full report has never been made public.

Foreign members of the TJRC refused to sign its lands chapter when some sections were removed and doctored.

It was presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 3, 2013.

It has never been implemented.

NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga says it will be implemented if he is elected.

Take, for instance, Kiplagat who ironically chaired the TJRC .

He was linked to the Wagalla Massacre of Somalis in February 1984, which the United Nations once described as the worst human rights abuse in Kenya.

An estimated 3,000 people died, tens of women were raped and many houses torched by the Kenyan Army.

Days before the massacre, members of the powerful, secretive Kenya Intelligence Committee visited Wajir.

They included PSs Joseph Mathenge (Security and Administration), Bethuel Kiplagat (Foreign Affairs), David Mwiraria (Home Affairs) and J Gituma (Information).

It's alleged members of that team authorised the deadly operation meant to instil 'patriotism' in the Somali community, particularly the Degodia clan.

The TJRC report recommended that members of the intelligence committee, including Kiplagat and Mwiraria, be investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine criminal culpability.

It recommended none of those officials should hold any public office.

Mwiraria, who later became Finance minister, died on April 13 this year, aged 79.

At the time of the massacre, GG Kariuki was Internal Security minister.

He was adversely remained in connection with the operation.

Separately, the TJRC recommended a probe of Kiplagat and Biwott, regarding the gruesome murder in February 1990 of Foreign minister Robert Ouko, who was shot, battered and burned.

Earlier in 2004, Biwott had been barred from travelling to the US over allegations of corruption.

“In addition, Dr Ouko’s colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be further questioned due to the likelihood of their knowledge of important events leading up to Ouko’s death.

"Ambassador Kiplagat in particular should be further questioned, given his role in the Washington Trip theory as well as his more recent involvement with the Sunguh Committee and the allegation he provided misinformation,” the TJRC report states.

According to detectives from Scotland Yard, Kiplagat told Ouko's sister Dorothy Randiak that Biwott had a serious falling out with Ouko during a US trip in January 1990.

“Randiak said Kiplagat told her there was a serious disagreement between Ouko and Biwott on the Washington Trip, that all was not well between the two, and that Ouko had flown back separately from the rest of the Kenyan delegation,” the TJRC says

A delegation of 84 Kenyans was on an unofficial visit to the US National Prayer Breakfast with President George H W Bush and other world leaders when differences emerged between Ouko and Biwott.

“Since it was not considered an official state visit, President Daniel Moi was unable to get a private audience with the President of the United States. Ouko led a press conference and also met with some human rights organisations and US representatives on Capitol Hill,” the report says.

Quoting a report by Scotland Yard, the TJRC report said Ouko privately met Bush in the absence of the Kenyan delegation, which made close Moi associates, including Biwott, very jittery.

Ouko was murdered two weeks after his return from the US.

Nkaissery was also accused of gross human rights violations by TJRC in connection with the 1984 military operation in West Pokot county, Operation Nyundo.

Nkaissery, then an army major, is among senior military officers the commission accused of gross human rights violations, including torture, sexual violence and murder.

“In some cases, security agents starved animals, approximately 30,000 cattle, that had been confiscated, as a way of compelling their owners into surrendering guns,” the report states.

It recommended Nkaissery be investigated and possibly prosecuted for his role in the controversial operation.

Kariuki was separately put on the spot by TJRC for yet another massacre in Northeastern.

Although he denied knowledge of any deaths and rape in the 1980 Karatasi/Garissa Gubai Massacre, the report says Kariuki bears responsibility for the operation and ensuing atrocities, together with former Provincial Commissioner Benson Kaaria.

“The Commission finds the conduct of Benson Kaaria and GG Kariuki, both of whom appeared before the Commission, is consistent with official denials and deflections," the commissioners concluded.

The violence occurred when government forces, saying they were flushing out gangster Abdi Madobe, set fire to Bulla Karatasi village, killing residents and raping women.

Then, they forcefully interned the populace at Garissa Primary School football pitch for three days without water or food, resulting in over 3,000 deaths.


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