Obote’s spies killed in Nairobi

PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL Princess Hotel on Tom Mboya Street (then known as Victoria Street) which was the base of the Obote spies who were abducted and killed by Kabaka Mutesa allies.

Two Ugandan spies sent to Nairobi to gather information on opponents of President Milton Obote were killed and their bodies thrown into a river.

Five Ugandan exiles said to be supporters of Kabaka Mutesa, who had been overthrown by Dr Obote, were arrested over the murder.

Their case excited the media in both countries as it dragged on for two years.

On April 4, 1967, Superintendent Eric Stephenson got the news that two of his spies — Lillian Millie and Sara Massa — were missing in Nairobi.

Stephenson, accompanied by other Ugandan officers, arrived in Nairobi after the bodies of the two women were discovered floating in River Athi.

It all started in 1966 in Kampala when Dr Obote, then prime minister, deposed Uganda’s first president, Sir Edward Mutesa, who was also the Kabaka (king) of Buganda.

Mutesa, his followers, and some Kabaka Yekka activists escaped into exile and some of them ended up in Nairobi, where they started hatching a plot to kill Obote.

The Uganda intelligence sent spies to infiltrate the plotters’ group. They arrived in Nairobi on March 31. One was Lillian Millie, a pretty 21-year-old “bar hostess”. The other was Sara Massa, 23, a policewoman. There was also Superintendent Festus Wauyo, who had arrived with warrants of arrest against four of the plotters. Others in the group included Uganda CID head, Mr Mohamed Hassan, and Superintendent Katerega.

After handing the warrants to the Kenya police, Wauyo booked the two women and himself at the Princess Hotel, while Katerega booked in at the California Hotel.

In the dock were five men, Krenima Mawanda, Abraham Senkoma, Daniel Kiwanuka, Andrew Kyeyune, and John William Obbo.
Senkoma had been an officer in the Kabaka’s guard and aided the king to escape into exile.

During the trial, he admitted that he was wanted in Uganda in connection with an attempt to kill Dr Obote and his deputy, John Babiiha.

During the preliminary inquiry before Nairobi magistrate Samuel Kivuitu, the court was told that it was in a discussion held at a house in Eastleigh that the five, plus a sixth person who turned out to be a State witness, had been informed that the two women were spies sent to hunt down the group.

In court, a Ugandan police officer admitted that Massa, a member of the Ugandan police, had accompanied Millie, who was an informer, to find witnesses over the assassination plot.

Both Millie and Massa were coordinating the spy mission from Princess Hotel.

They visited several bars frequented by Kabaka Yekka activists in Nairobi.

On Sunday April 2, they met with some of the accused at the Sans Chique restaurant. In the early hours of that Sunday, Millie was in the Starlight Club tracking down the group.

Then she went to bed.

On April 3, the court was told, Millie received a telephone call at about 8.30 pm and the two women were seen going towards Government Road (now Moi Avenue).

They were to meet a Mr Senvuma outside Kenya Cinema. It was the last time they were seen alive.

That night of April 3, Essey Senvuma – who had been introduced to Millie the previous night at Starlight Club — went out to look for another Kabaka Yekka member, Krenima Mawanda, at the Rendezvous Restaurant, where he worked. But Mawanda, who was one of the accused, was not there.

After dinner she went back to her house and the five accused men arrived at 10pm.

They asked Senvuma to accompany them. She refused. As they left, one of the accused, Obbo, gave her a handbag which was identified in court as belonging to Millie.

It was not until April 8 that the two bodies were found near Sofia Village “not far from the old Athi River bridge.”

Post mortem reports indicated that the women had been suffocated and strangled.

Although Mawanda and Senkoma were acquitted, they were immediately re-arrested outside the court and handed over to Uganda.

The rest were sentenced to death. Their appeal was rejected.

Two years after they were hanged at Kamiti Prison, Dr Obote was deposed by Idi Amin.