Dr Robert Ouko Is Missing

Dr Ouko was now alone at his Koru home other than his domestic staff. What happened thereafter is not known for certain.

Ogutu the store man said he locked both gates leading from the house by 10.30pm after Dorothy Randiak and her friends had left; the lower gate at the entry to driveway, and the upper gate that was some 150 metres up the driveway towards the house.

He later maintained that he kept the keys to the gates until about 11pm when Selina Were asked for the keys to the pedestrian gates saying that Dr Ouko wanted them. Ogutu stated after that he handed over the keys to Salina Were, he did not see them again until the next morning (Tuesday 13) at about 7am, lying on the ground beside the lower gate. Both pedestrian gates were still open.

According to Troon’s ‘Final Report’ Ogutu’s night was further disturbed at about 2am when he was woken by Erasto Olang, the ‘chicken man’ who told him that Dr Ouko wanted the key to the store. Together they went to the poultry shed where they gave the keys to Dr Ouko.

The Kenya Police ‘Further Investigations’ Report however said that ‘At about 12 midnight the minister went to the chicken house and found Erasto Olang Otiende looking after the young chicks’. [KPFI 2:9 p11]

Ouko was apparently concerned that the 500 chicks delivered on the Saturday might be at risk on a cold night and wanted to find some more heat bulbs to keep them warm. Dr Ouko went into the store but was unable to find more bulbs.

The farm workers testified that Dr Ouko seemed reluctant for them to join him in the store.

Oguto said he then returned to bed and was given the store key by Olang at approximately 7am the next morning. He checked the store room and found that although it had been closed the padlock had not been locked.

Here again the Kenya Police ‘Further Investigations’ Report tells a slightly different story, having Ouko tending to the chickens at 3am. [KPFI 2:9 page 12]

Salina Were, the maid, lived adjacent to the kitchen. It was usual practice that she kept keys to the house and looked after the home when the Ouko’s were away.

Salina Were confirmed in her testimony that she had locked the minister’s study door and the main front door before going to bed at about 11pm. Before doing so she noticed that Dr Ouko had changed his clothes and was wearing a Kitenge with a red zig zag pattern, trousers, black shoes and a dark brown leather jacket. (The shirt and jeans found at the site where Dr Ouko’s body was found appeared to be the clothing he was wearing during the evening before changing. [TFR para 31]

According to Troon’s ‘Final Report’, Salina Were said ‘she was awakened at about 3am by a noise similar to a door being slammed shut but sufficiently loud enough to startle her awake’ (Troon’s underlining) and that ‘she checked her wristwatch and waited for some minutes, thinking that the Minister would call her to make him tea’. [TFR para 32]

It should be noted however, that Troon interviewed Salina Were with a Kenyan police officer and Jonah Anguka acting as a translator as Salina could only speak Luo. Mrs Esther Molly Mbajah, Dr Ouko’s sister-in-law married to his brother Barrack, testified in a written statement that Herine Ogembo, Dr Ouko’s mistress told her in Luo that he had been picked up in the early morning and used the Luo word ‘Kogwuen’ meaning between 3am and 6am or ‘before cock crow’. [Statement of Esther Molly Mbajah, 29 March 1990]

Both the problem of translation and the varying witness testimony covering the early hours to dawn on the 13th February make it possible, indeed quite likely, that Dr Ouko disappeared from his Koru home not at 3am but later, perhaps as late as 6am that morning.

[On 22 February, Troon and other police officers conducted an experiment at the Koru farm residence in the company of Salina Were to try and ascertain what the sound was that said she heard. Troon reported that, “Suffice to say she associated the most likely sound to the discharge of a firearm, but could not discount the closing of the study door as also being similar”.] [TFR para 33]

After a few minutes she heard an engine. Leaving her room she walked about 15 yards to the Grass Hut that overlooked the lower gate to the main road, which she could see quite clearly because of the security lighting, and saw a white car with its lights on turning round at the end of the driveway, just outside the lower gate. She did not see who was in the car. The car drove to the end of the access road to where it joined the Koru-Muhoroni road and turned left towards Muhoroni and she watched until the car’s lights went out of site. Troon noted that at that point there was ‘an unmade road leading to Got Alila Hill where Ouko’s body was subsequently found’. [TFR para 33]

She returned to bed and awoke at about 6.30am and found that the minister’s study door (that she had closed the night before) was open and his private bedroom door which directly accessed the study from across the corridor was unlocked even though Dr Ouko normally locked his bedroom door at night.

The covers on Dr Ouko’s bed had been drawn back and the sheets looked as if he had either lain on the bed or gone to sleep in it. His pyjamas had been worn. Selina Were also saw two briefcases on the floor and she noticed that the telephone on his bedside table, his direct STD line, was off the hook and placed upside down on the table.

Had Dr Ouko made or received a call just before leaving home? Or did he justt want to stop the telephone ringing?

Concerned at what she saw, Salina Were called Dr Ouko’s Loresho home in Nairobi and the Bata shop in Kisumu but there was no news of him.


‘At about 1pm on Tuesday 13th February Paul Shikuku a herdsboy was in the area of Got Alila Hill when he saw smoke. On closer examination the boy discovered that the smoke was coming from a human body with “flames around the chest and stomach area”. Shikuku ‘told another herdsboy called Harsi what he had seen. He showed him the smoke but refused to take him to the site’ [KPFI 3:2 page 13]. The boys took fright and ran towards his village. On the way Shikuku met a Richard Rotich and Joshua Ngeney at the River Nyando. One of them, it is unclear which, said ‘that it may be a body of a madman who resides in the bush within that area’.  Shikuku also reported the sight to several villagers.’ But unfortunately they did not report the find to the authorities. Paul Shikuku’s testimony was supported by the testimony of six villagers. [Troon’s Final Report, Para 38]

And so we arrive at one of the crucial pieces of evidence in the murder of Dr Robert Ouko. Witness testimony places the time of death in the morning of Tuesday 13th February, 1990.

Dr Ouko had been expected to land back in Nairobi at Jomo Kenyatta Airport on 13th February but of course he did not arrive and his bodyguards that were waiting at the airport for him began to enquire about his whereabouts. [KPFI 3:1 page 12]

Mrs Ouko was informed and called Selina Were at the Koru farm. She told Mrs Ouko that her husband had ‘been collected in a white car early in the morning at about 3.00am’.

In the initial hours that Dr Ouko was missing no great concern was shown about his disappearance. Everyone expected him to have been delayed and that eventually he would show up [See KPFI 3:1 page 12]. But by the end of the 13th anxiety began to grow.

At about 3pm a Kisumu Councillor, Mr George Lazarus Owino, together with a Mr Joel Owila Odera, Mr Peter Odeny Kungu, Mr John Ologi and a Mr Alex Ndege arrived at the Koru house apparently to express their sympathy to Dr Ouko for the motor accident he had been involved with the previous week.

The visit had been arranged the previous day by Owino and Dr Ouko but of course the latter was not at home  [paras 65 to 69, Troon’s FP]

On the Wednesday 14th February at about 6.00pm Dr Ouko’s bodyguard AP Cpl. Gordon Okoth contacted the Divisional Security Intelligence Officer in Kisumu, Mr Omwenga, who in turn informed the District Security Committee and the Provincial Security Committee.[KPFI 3:3 page 13]

‘A Police Inspector was dispatched to Koru to investigate what had happened to the minister. He returned, reporting that Dr Ouko had left his Koru home in the early hours of the morning’. [KPFI 3:3 page 13]

The decision was taken to mount a search for Dr Ouko ‘within Koru’ but as by then it was approaching darkness the search did not begin until the next day, Thursday 15th. [KPFI 3:3 page 13]

The initial search by the Kenyan police began and at Dr Ouko’s Koru home, where he had been last sighted, and spread out from there into the surrounding countryside but by the darkness on the 15th he had not been found and there was no further news as to his whereabouts.

The first government statement on Ouko was issued on Thursday 15 February through Voice of Kenya radio and Television:

“The family of the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, Dr. Robert Ouko, has reported that the minister left his Koru home last Tuesday, February 13, in the morning, and has been seen since. Could Dr. Ouko please contact his family or the nearest police station. Any member of the public who might have any information as to the minister’s whereabouts should report to the nearest police station.”

On Thursday 15 February at about 5pm, Christabel Ouko arrived at the Koru where later she was joined by other family members. One of these was her sister-in-law, Mrs Esther Molly Mbajah, Dr Ouko’s brother Barrack’s wife who arrived at or before 6pm. Others were also there, including Dr Ouko’s mother Susana, James K’Oyoo and Kisumu’s Mayor Olilo. [Esther Molly Mbajah statement] 

Esther Molly Mbajah, Dr Ouko’s sister-in-law and wife of his brother Barrack noted in her written testimony that, ‘During the course of my time with Christabel she asked me to speak with Barrack and try and stop him speaking badly about the family. [Esther Molly Mbajah statement]

February 16, 1990, 12:53 P.M.: President Moi issued a statement of concern through the Kenya News Agency:

“I wish to express my sadness and grave concern on the sudden disappearance of my Minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, the Hon. Dr. Robert Ouko.

As soon as I received this information on Wednesday, February 14, 1990, I directed the government machinery to be deployed to trace his whereabouts. I wish to assure the members of the public that at the moment my own security personnel are applying maximum effort to achieve this intention.

Meanwhile, every member of the public who has any information which might help in tracing his whereabouts is requested to report to the nearest police station.

The government is committed to protecting the life of each and every Kenyan and no effort will be spared achieving this intention. The public will be informed as soon as further progress is made on investigation.”

Next Chapter: His Body is Found