Charles Njonjo

The late Charles Njonjo.

| File

The judicial inquiry that shed light on Njonjo’s bullying political tactics

A panel that investigated Charles Mugane Njonjo’s alleged involvement in the August 1, 1982 attempted coup uncovered evidence that suggested his official driver, a director of an aviation company and the chief firearm licensing officer facilitated illegal entry of weapons.

As tributes for Mr Njonjo, who died on Sunday aged 101, flowed in, a glance at the report of the commission of inquiry chaired by Justice Cecil Miller sheds more light on the all-powerful man whose word was law.

The report details evidence from key personalities including ODM leader Raila Odinga, Mr Lawrence Sifuna (then Bungoma South MP) and the former Foreign Affairs minister, the late Dr Robert Ouko.

It was on the basis of this evidence that the commission ruled that Mr Njonjo was involved in the planning of the abortive coup, subsequently tossing the powerful man into political oblivion.

President Daniel Moi “pardoned” Mr Njonjo, who lived a quiet life until his death last Sunday and cremation a few hours later.

Mr Odinga testified to the commission on July 26, 1984 while in detention, having been thrown in the slammer on March 23, 1983.

According to the report, Mr Odinga said he had a conversation with one Kiprono arap Keino, then the deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, in the gymnasium of Hilton Hotel, Nairobi, in March 1982.

“The two began discussing politics in general. Odinga told Keino that there were certain cliques in the government who were attempting to intimidate and muzzle Parliament, which was not in the best interest of the country. Keino retorted: ‘I know you people do not like Njonjo…’.” The report says.

“By ‘You people’, Keino meant the Luos. Odinga then told Keino that the Luos had no reason to like somebody who had once said that he cannot shake hands with them. Keino replied that whether the Luos liked it or not Njonjo would make it as the next President of this country.”

It adds: “At this stage Keino did not elaborate how that was going to come about. Odinga expressed his personal opinion: Njonjo is day-dreaming because in my opinion, (he) cannot win a free and fair election. Keino affirmed that things would be arranged soon for Njonjo to become the President…”

The report also details damning evidence that Mr Njonjo had participated in illegal importation of firearms, saying the evidence found in the house of a family that associated with Mr Njonjo was “startling”.

Issued the firearms

The commission established that the principal actors involved in importing the cache of arms were members of the Haryanto family, a man named Captain Boskovic, Mr Njonjo’s official driver, chief inspector of police Kabucho Wakori, and the then chief licensing officer of the Central Firearms Bureau, senior superintendent of police Douglas Alan Walker.

Captain Boskovic was the managing director of a business known as Boskovic Air Charters Ltd, of which Mr Njonjo and a member of the Haryanto family were shareholders and directors.
It was Mr Walker who, with Mr Njonjo’s orders, issued permits for the weapons to be illegally imported.

On one occasion, Mr Wakori collected the Haryantos’ luggage when they arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The bags, which did not go through mandatory checks, contained firearms and ammunition. Mr Walker issued the firearms licences at the VIP lounge.

“The evidence clearly established that there was accumulation of an inordinate quantity of firearms and ammunition together with the installation of ground-to-air and air-to-ground transmitting and receiving radio equipment, stored in two adjoining rooms of a private dwelling house, the property of Haryanto family, and situated along Lenana Road in the heart of Nairobi, the capital city…,” the report says.

“More particularly, this huge cache of arms and ammunition was stored centrally within lethal range of the State House, the Headquarters of the Kenya Army and a Police Station. That much we saw for ourselves when we visited the Haryanto home officially during the course of the Inquiry…”

The commission also established that Mr Njonjo ordered that visas be issued to several South Africans without the authority of the Immigration department or any vetting.

Charles Njonjo cremated at Kariokor crematorium, Nairobi

Among those who entered Kenya this way were a member of the apartheid government of South Africa and high-ranking officers in the South African armed forces.

Articulating Kenya’s foreign policy

Mr Njonjo’s involvement with the apartheid leaders violated Kenya’s policy at the time.

On June 6, 1980, Dr Ouko invited Mr Njonjo’s wrath when he attacked the apartheid regime during an international press conference.

The following day, Mr Njonjo called the minister and castigated him, demanding to know why he had “blasted” South Africa.

Dr Ouko said that as the Foreign Affairs minister, he had the responsibility of articulating Kenya’s foreign policy, of which the President was also aware.

"Dr. Ouko: Njonjo asked me ‘Why did you blast South Africa?’ I told him that I was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that it was my duty to explain Kenya's foreign policy to the rest of the world. I further said that as Foreign Minister I was the official spokesman of the Kenya Government on those matters and that even the President had said this about South Africa."

“Then Mr. Njonjo told me: ‘Well, let him do it, but not you.’ In response I said: You must be joking. I have not said all that there is to say and I will continue in that vein. Njonjo replied: ‘You have been warned and you had better heed my warning’”. Dr Ouko was killed in February 1990.
The commission concluded that by instigating, facilitating and participating in the illegal importation of arms and ammunition, by building up an arsenal in the Haryanto home, and by allowing residents of South Africa to enter Kenya in utter disregard of Kenya's security, Mr Njonjo conducted himself in a manner prejudicial to the security of the State.

Another interesting aspect of the report is that Mr Njonjo, while seeking the support of MPs in what was believed to be a scheme to sponsor a no-confidence motion, sent emissaries to legislators to try to win them over.

Besides promising to fund harambees in their constituencies and even giving them money, he also intimidated them that they would be detained without trial.

Guilty of treason

In 1981, the report says, Mr Njonjo sent Mr Jackson Kalweo, who was MP for Nyambene North and an assistant minister, to Mr Lawrence Simiyu Sifuna, then MP for Bungoma South, who had adamantly refused to join Mr Njonjo’s camp.

To intimidate Mr Sifuna, Mr Njonjo had sent the MP’s file to the then dreaded Criminal Investigations Department.

"The purpose was to establish any slight mistake, either mileage claim or anything, and then you land in hot soup…fortunately, there was nothing, I was clean and my file was returned,” Mr Sifuna told the commission.

He added: "To be a traitor and to be guilty of treason you must be somebody who wishes to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means. That is exactly what Njonjo was trying to do. Njonjo himself was aiming at (becoming) the President of the country.”

The report says that when Mr Njonjo was given an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations, he gave a vague statement and refused to be cross-examined by his own counsel.

"My Lords, I would like to say how very sorry I am that these proceedings became necessary. It is now over a year since the Inquiry was set up and we have 102 days of hearings,” Mr Njonjo said.

“This has naturally been an unpleasant and sad and indeed a humbling experience for me. But I do believe that the very fact such proceedings have taken place is a tribute to the maturity and stability that exists in our country and the Christian wisdom of His Excellency the President…

“Trusting in that wisdom and fairness of His Excellency the President, I have asked my two Counsel to do all they can at this stage to keep any further proceedings here as short as possible. I am very grateful to you, My Lords, for allowing me to say that and that is all I wish to say."

The commission noted that Mr Njonjo did not appear to be concerned about the proceedings of the inquiry but “instead, he purported to address His Excellency the President (directly)”.

“By doing so he once again left all the allegations made against him and the mass of the evidence adduced before us untouched, thereby leaving it open for adverse inferences to be drawn against him.”