In Summary

• The allegations were against the former Mayor of Kisumu, George Okalo, councillors and administrative officers.

• Most were suspected of unlawful allocation of houses repossessed for supposed non-payment of rent or mortgage then re-allocated to council members, their families or friends.

The late Robert Ouko during a Kanu meeting in 1990.
The late Robert Ouko during a Kanu meeting in 1990.
Image: STAR FILE

Detective John Troon of the New Scotland Yard had two main theories about the motive for the murder of Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Robert Ouko.

The first was an alleged row between Ouko and President Daniel Moi during a trip to Washington. The other was corruption at the Kisumu Molasses project.

Both do not stand up to scrutiny as evidence uncovered totally discredits them.

 

What is not widely known is that Troon did not come up with these theories until at least six weeks into his investigation.

Also not known is that prior to that, the main focus of his investigations was different allegations that he later claimed to have “quickly dismissed”. That was not true.

A telex dated March 22, 1990 from the British High Commission in Nairobi to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office read:

‘Troon has narrowed down the investigation to two lines of enquiry: conspiracy/corruption’ [and] ‘family’.

‘The conspiracy/corruption revolves around a report detailing the high level of corruption in the Kisumu local council’, the telex continued.

KISUMU COUNCIL CORRUPTION

The allegations of corruption and serious mismanagement that Ouko was concerned about were at the then Kisumu municipal council.

 

There was suspicion of land fraud that ran into millions of shillings and the minister was determined to investigate.

This, rather than a report on the Kisumu Molasses project, was the ‘corruption report’ Ouko was working on before he was murdered.

The graft allegations were against the former Mayor of Kisumu, George Okalo, councillors and administrative officers.

Most were suspected of unlawful allocation of houses repossessed for supposed non-payment of rent or mortgage then re-allocated to council members, their families or friends.

But this was only one part of the corruption on a “shocking” scale in the Kisumu area.

Okalo was also being investigated over the disappearance of Sh38 million that had been loaned to the Town Council by the World Bank.

Millions of shillings for water development projects had also gone missing.

Ouko wanted these reports published and handed to the police.

Troon, much later, dismissed local corruption, as a motive for Ouko’s murder, as being “a small local government issue”.

But the Kisumu Council and related corruption issues were by no means “small” because it involved the equivalent Sh1.2 billion today. People kill for that sort of money.

And Troon’s dismissal of the local corruption report is puzzling.

The Kisumu Town Council was shut down because of corruption. Ouko’s secretary Rispa Okonji testified that he asked her to discreetly photocopy three copies of the report.

Troon was given or shown three copies of the report. He later claimed, however, that they were planted on him and dismissed that area of his investigation.

Yet when it came to the so-called Kisumu Molasses corruption, Troon made it the basis of one of his key theories. But there was no evidence of corruption there.

Not a single copy of an alleged corruption report was ever found and no one ever claimed to have seen them.

Ouko’s sister Dorothy Randiak told Troon that a Kanu meeting to discuss corruption in Kisumu was scheduled on the evening before Ouko was murdered.

However, Kanu district secretary Onyango Midika postponed the meeting until February 24 when Ouko would be away on government business.

Was the suppression of Kisumu Town Council corruption report the real motive for the murder of Robert Ouko?

1988 KISUMU ELECTION

Troon was told that during the internal Kanu elections in 1988, Ouko had five opponents arrested.

They were released without charge after three days but by then the ballot had taken place.

Joab Omino, one of those arrested, was Ouko’s opponent at the Parliamentary election held that March.

Perhaps it was not surprising that the 1988 election in Kisumu was a bitter contest.

Could it also have been a motive for murder?

‘HATRED’

In his ‘Final Report’ Troon wrote: ‘During the course of enquiries allegations were made by several persons, particularly those engaged in politics, of personal hatred levelled against Dr Ouko by his political opponent in the 1988 elections Mr Joab Omino’.

Omino was a wealthy and determined opponent, reputedly supported by other wealthy local backers, and according to some, by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Hezekiah Oyugi.

Troon was also told that former Attorney General Charles Njonjo had put a lot of money into Omino’s campaign.

Ouko had given testimony against Njonjo in 1982 during the Commission of Inquiry into the attempted coup against President Moi.

It was alleged that Ouko had received threats from Omino and his associates that he would be killed if he won the election.

Ouko won the election by only 2,000 votes.

But the animosity between Ouko and his opponents continued after the election.

Troon wrote: ‘Allegations were made that Omino and his associates plotted to harm Dr Ouko, conspired to harm his property at Nyahera, spreading rumours to discredit Dr OUKO particularly concerning his family differences…’

The detective also dismissed local political in-fighting as a motive for Ouko’s murder.

He accepted there were “ill feelings” towards Ouko from local political opponents but found no evidence that any of them were involved in his murder.

JOAB OMINO’S ALIBI

Troon had doubts about Joab Omino’s alibi: ‘Whilst I cannot say at this stage if OMINO has any knowledge of the death of the Minister I cannot fully satisfy myself as to his movements at the material time’.

Omino claimed that on February 12 he attended a meeting with a Mr Christopher Mbuai Mulei, and later that day with Gor Mahia Football Club but this could not be confirmed.

For the evenings of the February 12 and 13 Omino said he was at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi between ‘approximately 6.15pm and 8.30pm and he had a witness to prove it.

‘Mr Moses WETANGULA an advocate of the High Court’, wrote Troon, ‘and a friend of OMINO states that he was with OMINO between approximately 6.15pm and 8.30pm on both the 12th and 13th February at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi’.

This, however, doesn’t give Omino an alibi for the morning that Ouko was murdered. He could have driven the five-and-a-half-hour journey from Koru to Nairobi to have been in the Serena Hotel in good time meet Wetangula.

And on the morning of February 13 when Ouko was murdered, Joab Omino failed to turn up to a meeting at the National Bank of Kenya in Nairobi.

Martin Minns produced the documentary Murder at Got Alila: Who killed Dr Robert Ouko and why?