Local Politics-Local Motives


Although in 1988 Kenya was a one-party state, the Kenya African National Union, or KANU, the party did allow members to challenge each other for election. In the general election of May 1988 Dr Robert Ouko faced a wealthy and determined opponent, Mr Joab Omino.

The campaign according to some was a bitter affair. Troon’s ‘Final Report’ explained that allegations had been made, ‘particularly [by] those engaged in politics of personal hatred levelled against Dr Ouko by his political opponent in the 1988 elections Mr Joab Omino.’ According to Troon, ‘This hatred became more apparent after the election when Dr Ouko was elected as Kisumu Town Member of Parliament. 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, and during the elections an attempt was made to injure Dr Ouko by throwing acid at him’. [TFR para 204]

One of the issues played in the campaign was the charge that Dr Ouko had not developed the Kisumu Molasses Plant. Another issue according to some, or a rumour maliciously spread by Dr Ouko’s opponents according to others, was that he was at odds with his brothers, particularly his brother Barrack, whom, the story went, he had failed to help when he needed it most. If Dr Ouko cannot even help his own brother, his opponents taunted, how can he help his own constituents?

The allegation that acid was thrown at Ouko was found to be untrue (‘fluid’ was thrown at a rally but Ouko was not there) but there was apparently some evidence that Omino’s supporters spread rumours about Dr Ouko’s relationship with his brother Barrack during the election.

Joab Omino denied any involvement in a bitter personal campaign against his opponent, or of any ‘serious rift between them’. His alibi as to his whereabouts on the night of 12th/13th February was supported by Mr Moses Wetangula, then an advocate of the High Court who said he was with Omino at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi between ‘approximately 6.15pm and 8.30pm on both 12th and 13th February’. [TFR para 211] This, of course, did not give Omino an alibi for 3am – 6.30am of the morning of the 13th February, the time during which Dr Ouko was murdered.

Omino also said he was at a meeting with Gor Malia Football Club at 5pm on the 12th but again that did not cover the time when Dr Ouko was murdered. Troon did state that Omino failed to make an appointment of the 13th February at 11.30am with the General Manager of the National Bank of Kenya, Nairobi, Mr Jason Wellington Oluga. [TFR para 213]

Troon was not satisfied with alibi witness statements on behalf of Joab Omino and could not satisfy himself as to his movements around the 12th and 13th of February. He suggested re-interviewing the witnesses. [TFR para 214]

The Kenya police followed up on his recommendation, re-interviewing Omino and Moses Wetangula but found ‘no evidence to associate Mr Omnio with the Murder of Dr. Ouko’. [KPFI 8:7, pages 61-62]

Dr Ouko went on to win the election but only by the slim margin of 2,000 votes in his constituency. The legacy of bitterness was to remain.


There is ample evidence and corroborating testimony that Dr Ouko was concerned at allegations of corruption and mismanagement against Councillors and administrative officers in the Kisumu Municipal Town Council, in particular in relation to the misappropriation of Donor monies, the allocation of land plots and the redistribution of houses unlawfully repossessed by the council.

The most serious allegations were those of corruption against the former Mayor Mr George Okalo and some members of the then incumbent council’, Detective Superintendent John Troon stated in his ‘Final Report’ [Troon, Final Report para 199, page 74].

Troon continued, ‘The allegations were of misappropriation of millions of Kenya Shillings relevant to the distribution of land plots which culminated in the probe report being finalised in February 1990 just before the death of Dr Ouko. Dr Ouko was in possession of this report which was handed to me later by his wife where she had located it in his study at their Loresho home. A further copy was found in his bedroom safe at his Koru home as described elsewhere in this report. At a later stage a further part of this report was handed to me by the Commissioner of Police’.

The inquiry into corruption in Kisumu Town Council was chiefly concerned, according to Troon, with the unlawful allocation of houses that had been repossessed for supposed non-payment of rent or mortgage ‘and then re-allocated to Council members, their families or friends’ [Troon, para 203, p75].

Two of those that allegedly received property were Mr Timothy Maloba a local Assistant Commissioner of Police and his deputy Superintendent Omwenga. Troon noted that Omwenga was ‘one of the officers involved in the search of Dr Ouko’s farm on 16th February’.

After the 1988 general election a new Mayor and Council was elected and some of the officers, including the new Mayor Mr George Olilo, were relatives of Dr Ouko. Troon stated that during the next two years the council was split into two factions, those who supported Dr Robert Ouko and those who did not. ‘There was manipulation on the Mayor and Town Clerks part’, Troon wrote, ‘to conceive special meetings where only pro Ouko Councillors participated and, according to the probe findings, decisions were made in the absence of other opposing Councillors’. [TFR para 202, page 75]

But Troon, although he noted that there was ill feelings towards Dr Ouko from local political opponents, found no evidence that any members of the local council were involved in his murder.

Of interest however, is that firm evidence was found that Dr Ouko, at the time of his death, ‘was in possession’ of a report into corruption into local Kisumu council corruption, a copy of which was handed to Troon by Mrs Ouko and another found at his Koru home [TFR para 200]. Was this, in reality, the ‘corruption report’ he was supposedly working on before he was murdered?

The Kenya police investigation stated that the reason Dr Ouko had gone to see Hezekiah Oyugi on the day he returned from Washington (February 4th) was to discuss the alleged Municipal Council scandal. The Council was indeed dissolved a few weeks after Dr Ouko’s death.

The Kenya police investigation, however, did not find ‘any evidence to associate anybody in the municipal council with the murder of Dr. Ouko’. [KPFI p62]

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