The unresolved murder of former Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko had fizzled out, only for Jonah Anguka to reignite it in his thrilling book.
In Absolute Power: The Ouko Murder Mystery, Mr Anguka, the only person who was tried for Dr Ouko’s murder and acquitted, opened a Pandora’s Box.
In the book published in 1998, Mr Anguka accused the then three most powerful people in the Kanu government for the gruesome murder: Provincial Commissioner Hezekiah Oyugi, Cabinet Minister Nicholas Biwott and President Daniel Moi himself. The three have since died.
Dr Ouko’s scorched and mutilated body was found near his farm in Koru on February 13, 1990, after he had been reported missing for days.
Since the murder took place almost three decades ago, most of the suspects and witnesses have disappeared or died mysteriously. This pointed to a cover-up.
Mr Anguka was charged two times with the murder and acquitted.
Dr Ouko’s body was first discovered on February 13, 1990 by a herdsboy known as Shikuku in a thicket at the foot of Got Alila hills.
Roller coaster begins
On February 16, 1990, the body was recovered from the murder scene by four police officers. Then, the roller-caster started.
The four police officers saw various items at the murder scene, among them a white jerrican, a walking stick, a leather jacket, a torch and a polythene bag.
Though all the police officers were present at the murder scene, only one of them testified that he saw a gun at the scene. The other three denied there was a gun.
Following the murder, investigations were started by the Kenya police and later on assisted by a team from the UK’s Scotland Yard, led by Superintendent John Troon. President Moi also formed a Commission of Inquiry, which was disbanded on November 26, 1991, under controversial circumstances.
On the same day the commission was disbanded, Mr Anguka, then serving as the Nakuru District Commissioner, was arrested and a magistrate’s court committed him to stand trial for murder at the High Court.
Consequently, Mr Anguka was charged with the murder case recorded in the High Court as Criminal Case No.41 of 1992. However, the matter ended prematurely with the death of the presiding judge, Justice Fidahussein Abdallah.
Another trial began on March 1, 1994 in which a total of 51 prosecution witnesses took to the stand.
Philip Rodi, a gatekeeper and farm supervisor at Ouko’s home, referred to as the star prosecution witness, told the court that on the night of February 12 and 13, 1990, when the minister disappeared, he had seen Mr Anguka walking towards the poultry house in the homestead.
Mr Rodi claimed to have seen Oyugi and Mr Anguka at the homestead on that fateful night.
An administration police officer guarding the home told the court that he did not know how Dr Ouko left the compound.
Mr Anguka called six witnesses. His main defence was that he was not around when Dr Ouko disappeared from his home. He explained he had travelled to his home in Nakuru.
In his opening remark during the trial, then Deputy Public Prosecutor Bernard Chunga asked the court to find out whether Mr Anguka had, through his own act or omission, killed Mr Ouko and if so, what his intention was.
Mr Chunga relied on both direct and circumstantial evidence in the trial, questioning why Mr Anguka had visited Dr Ouko weeks before his death.
The prosecutor queried the manner in which he broke the news of Dr Ouko’s death to his widow and why he absented himself from duty as from February 16, 1990 to the minister’s February 24, 1990 burial date without permission from the then Rift Valley PC Mohammed Yusuf.
Although Rodi made more than 20 statements to the police, he only mentioned the names of Oyugi and Anguka in one recorded on July 27, 1992.
This after he had told the commission that he saw no strangers in the homestead on the fateful night.
It is on this statement that Mr Chunga heavily relied in his prosecution, raising eight issues.
He questioned the visit by Mr Anguka to Dr Ouko’s office, his close relationship with the deceased, the transfer of Dr Ouko’s wife to Bonn West Germany, which Mr Anguka was facilitating, and failure to obtain permission from the Rift Valley PC when he was out of office.
He also wondered why Mr Anguka accompanied Scotland Yard detectives investigating the murder, something that led to serious differences with the Kenya police, rivalry between Mr Anguka and Dr Ouko and discrepancies in the mileage on the former DC’s official vehicle.
As the trial progressed, the first impression created was that the deceased committed suicide, based on the way the items found at the scene where the body was found were arranged.
“A person who decides to take his own life would probably apply one of these methods, namely: shoot himself, stab himself or set his own body alight using inflammable liquids. It is, however, inconceivable for him to apply all the three above, namely: shoot himself, break his own ankle and set his own body on fire,” the judge noted.
Dr Ian Erick West, who performed the postmortem examination, sided with the observations of the judge, noting that Dr Ouko was shot by another individual.
Dr West also observed the deceased was moved after being shot to death but before his blood clotted and being set on fire.
The court noted that the motive of the killer must have been to “completely destroy the deceased and then cover up the whole case”.
With such conflicting information, the court was faced with one question: Who killed Dr Ouko? In his judgment, the judge raised discrepancies in the evidence of Mr Rodi, and on his character.
“Rodi did not appear to the court as a foolish man. He gave the impression that he was very intelligent. Though he opted to testify in Dholuo, he was educated. He was a Form 4 school leaver,” the judge observed.
The judges stated, “…Rodi’s evidence fell on its own. He either concealed the truth of the matter or decided to mention the names of the accused (Mr Anguka) and the late Oyugi as late as 27/7/92 because the former was in custody and the latter had died.”
In acquitting Mr Anguka, the court noted that “it was not supposed to go on a voyage of imagining what part other people may have played in the murder”.
In February, former Kisumu Town East MP Gor Sungu, who in 2013 chaired a parliamentary team that investigated the death, told the Nation that Dr Ouko’s killers are known.
“Some killers have died. This information is in the Hansard. We tabled the report but it was never discussed in Parliament. One of the achievements of the committee is that the evidence it presented is preserved. All the files are kept in Parliament,” Mr Sungu said.