What Did Jonah Anguka Know And What Did He Hide?

Jonah Anguka, a District Commissioner at Nakuru, is the only person to date to have been tried for the murder of Dr Robert Ouko.

Anguka graduated from Nairobi University in 1977 with a degree in political science. Recruited into Kenya’s provincial administration he underwent paramilitary training at the Embakasi General Service Unit (GSU) Training Centre. After various postings as a district officer he became the District Commissioner (DC) to Nakuru in 1986. As DC at Nakuru, Jonah Anguka was not a minor state functionary but part of Kenya’s internal security and intelligence organisation and based at the centre of the country’s political power structure.

It was in giving evidence to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry in 1991 that, the by then former Detective Superintendent John Troon of Scotland Yard (Troon retired from the Metropolitan Police in August 1991) implicated Jonah Oraro Anguka, the District Commissioner for Nakuru and a ‘neighbour’ of Dr Ouko (Anguka owned and farmed land in Koru) in Ouko’s murder.

Troon had hardly mentioned Jonah Anguka in his ‘Final Report’. Troon’s only reference to Anguka was in paragraph 186 of his ‘Report’ when he was relating the search for documents that Dr Ouko was said to have with him just prior to his murder. Troon related:

On 22nd of February I personally searched the safe in the presence of Mr John Anguka [Troon’s spelling and underlining] and retrieved a green file containing papers relevant to the Misumu land plots corruption. It is not known how the file became located in the safe or when it was placed there. Mrs Ouko was unaware of its existence and in fact at a much later stage in the investigations produced to me another file on the same subject which she had found in Dr Ouko’s papers at their Loresho address located in his study’. [TFR para 186]

Troon was being questioned on November 18th, 1991 by Justice Akiwumi, Justice Gicheru and Bernard Chunga (State Prosecutor) during the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Dr Ouko’s death when he raised the case for further investigation of Anguka. The transcript of the relevant hearing explains Troon’s reasoning:

Troon:        There is a possibility that Mr Anguka may have some involvement or knowledge.

Akiwumi:    Why do you think Anguka might have been on the periphery?

Troon:        My Lords, his actions had been known to me. I thought his actions on my arrival in Kenya in the first 48 hours or so would appear to me to be there is a possibility that he may as well have been planted in to found out what I was up to.

Chunga:    Planted in by whom, Mr Troon?

Troon:        Well, it could be anyone but it is someone in very high authority, my lords, and someone that was aware of my coming here and probably part of that planning.

Chunga:    But do you know who that someone is?

Troon:        Yes, Mr Anguka introduced me to Mr Oyugi whom I was made to believe was the person in charge of this inquiry, where the Commissioner of Police was working to…

Gicheru:    Now, what are you saying, Mr Troon? Are you saying Mr Anguka was planted there by Mr Oyugi?

Troon:        Well, it is a possibility, my lords. I can only say that from reflection, on looking back to my arrival, it is obvious to me now that Mr Anguka was put there for a specific purpose. And the only person I think could probably have done that must have been Mr Oyugi. Because Mr Anguka, as I understand, is directly responsible through the PC to Mr Oyugi.

Anguka had been arrested by the Kenya police on the 26th November, 1991 but released two weeks later on the 3rd December. He was re-arrested on 10th December and charged with the murder of Dr Ouko.

At the time the Kenya police completed their ‘Further Investigations’ Report into the death of Dr Ouko, Anguka was awaiting the decision of committal proceedings as to whether he would be sent to trial in the High Court. Although restricted by the legal process of possible pending action, The Kenya’ police Report  set out fourteen points of its ‘evidence gathered against’ Anguka:  [KPFI 7:2 pages 23-29]

(i) Anguka’s official car had covered 270 kilometres on the 12th/13th February, 1990 ‘with excess fuel he was unable to account for’. Anguka’s claim that his driver ‘might have made a mistake when writing the workticket’ was not found convincing by the Kenya police as it would have required a mistake both in recording the number of kilometres covered and in the record of excess fuel.

(ii) Anguka’s driver had gone to collect him for duty at 7.30am on the morning of the 13th February but he was asleep and didn’t wake up until ‘around 9.00am’ when he went on duty. ‘It was abnormal for Mr. Anguka to go on duty late’, the report noted.

(iii) ‘On or about 13th February, 1990, the Administration Police Constables who were on duty’ stated that Anguka had ‘returned home at about 5.00am’. Anguka had said he had been at home all night.

(iv) On the 13th February, 1990, Anguka had asked a Mr Haji, the Provincial Commissioner, Rift Valley Province, for permission to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nairobi to ‘sort out urgent matters with the Permanent Secretary [Bethuel Kiplagat]’. He was granted permission but did not say why the matter was urgent.

(v) Anguka went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 14th February, met Bethuel Kiplagat and requested that his wife Mrs Susan Ngeso Anguka, Dr Ouko’s Personal Assistant, be transferred to Kenya’s Foreign Office in Bonn, West Germany. Anguka claimed that he was suffering from a bad back and ‘wanted to take the opportunity of his wife’s stay in Germany so he could get free travel documents and accommodation’ (and whilst there seek treatment).

(vi) On the 14th February Anguka telephoned Oyugi and reported the disappearance of Dr Ouko. He claimed he had been told of the disappearance by his wife. The Kenya police noted, ‘Dr Ouko did not come from his [Anguka’s] District or from Provincial Administration to necessitate him to ring Mr Oyugi at that hour’.

(vii) Anguka was ‘said to have travelled from Nakuru to Nyanza’ on the 15th February but it was ‘not clear as to where he was going and for what purpose’.

(viii) On the 16th February, Anguka travelled to Koru before Dr Ouko’s body was found by the police. He appeared to have no permission to leave his District, ‘no business in going to Koru’, and according to the Kenya police, gave no ‘reasonable explanation as to why he went there’.

(ix) On the 16th February, Anguka was at Dr Ouko’s Koru home when his wife Susan telephoned him and told him that Ouko’s body had been found. ‘Mr. Anguka burst into the room where Mrs. Christabel Ouko was being interviewed by Mr. Okoko, DCP who was leading the investigation’. Anguka broke the news that the body had been found whereupon Mrs Ouko collapsed screaming. Okoko quarrelled with Anguka for the manner in which he had broken the news. Again the Kenya police asked, why had Anguka gone to Koru? They surmised, ‘It is possible that he came to find out how much the family of Dr. Ouko and their workers knew about the disappearance of Dr. Ouko’.

(x) When Troon and his Scotland Yard team arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on 21st February, 1990, Anguka met them and accompanied them to Kisumu. Thereafter he assigned himself the task of acting as an interpreter when a Mr. Maggero, SP had been assigned to do it. The Kenya police said Anguka offered no explanation as to why he had done so. They speculated that he wanted to know how much Troon knew about the murder.

(xi) Troon was assisted by Provincial C.I.D. Officer (Nyanza) Mr. Timbwa of the S/ACP and CI Lutubula but they felt Anguka was interfering in their work. Timbwa quarrelled with Anguka, reported him to Okoko who in turn reported him to the Director of Criminal Investigation Department. Eventually Oyugi, as Provincial Commissioner, Nyanza Province, ordered Anguka to return to his station in Nakuru. Again the Kenya police asked, why was he involving himself in the investigation?

(xii) According to the Kenya police, whilst the Judicial Commission was sitting, Anguka ‘summoned the Administrative Police Officers who were guarding his residence in Nakuru’ and asked them to say that he had been home on all evenings of the week running up to the day Dr Ouko was murdered.

(xiii) The two Administrative Police Officers who were guarding Anguka’s residence gave statements that on the morning of the 13th February, 1990, he did not return until 5.00am.

(xiv) Although the Kenya police stated that a motive for Dr Ouko’s murder involving Anguka had not been established they ‘speculated’ that Dr Ouko had had a relationship with Mrs Susan Anguka, Jonah Anguka’s wife and that he tried to ‘quickly’ to ‘get his wife out of site and out of mind by arranging for her transfer to Bonn in West Germany’. The Kenya police stated, however, that ‘We have not been able to secure evidence to support that proposition’.

Jonah Ankuka was arrested on the morning of 10th December, 1991, and formally charged with the murder of Dr Robert Ouko. He spent 1,000 days in detention (his first trial was aborted following the death of the judge) and acquitted of Ouko’s murder in 1994.

Mr Justice Aganyanya accepted Anguka’s alibi that at 12.30am on the 13th February, 1990, the day that Ouko was murdered, he was being massaged by his nephew Oddotte and therefore the judge was not convinced that Anguka could not have travelled to Koru, murdered Ouko and returned to his house in time to be collected for work at 7.15am.

After his release Anguka went into ‘exile’ in the United States. In 1998 he published Absolute Power: The Ouko Murder Mystery..

Absolute Power: The Ouko Murder Mystery

In 2004 Professor David William Cohen and Professor E. S. Atieno Odhiambo published The Risks of Knowledge – Investigations into the Death of the Hon. Minister John Robert Ouko in Kenya, 1990. The analysis of Jonah Anguka’s case in Absolute Power set out below is largely based on their study.

The Risks of Knowledge was written before the information that Domenico Airaghi was a convicted fraudster became public knowledge which did so much to undermine the ‘Molasses Project’ theory, and before documents were released from President George Bush Snr’s Library and other sources to show that there had been no meeting between him and Dr Ouko during the ‘Washington Trip, the reason cited for the alleged row with President Moi and Nicholas Biowott.

Cohen and Odhiambo therefore largely accepted the Troon theories without question but their treatment of Absolute Power was nonetheless interesting and raised many questions.

They observed that according to Absolute Power, ‘Anguka was virtually always close to the center of the flow of events, but he positioned himself just far enough away that he could be considered “free” of culpability yet close enough that his observations would bear the authority of a near eyewitness to the murder and cover-up’. [TROK p140]

Anguka set out in the opening chapter of Absolute Power his close relationship with Dr Ouko and his family and their support for the Anguka family in times of trouble and stated that ‘whenever the Minister was travelling to or from Kisumu, during the daytime, he never lost an opportunity to visit my residence in Nakuru or at the office’. [TROK p147]

Anguka based his defence on ‘technically sufficient alibi’ for the night of February 12-13 and his close friendship with Robert Ouko. ‘In the instance of his relations with Ouko, Anguka’s book leaves his readers with nothing but a positive glow’. [TROK p139]

Yet as Cohen and Odhiambo noted, according to Anguka’s reconstruction of the two weeks leading to Dr Ouko’s murder, when for one reason or another he may have been in search of help and support, he did not call on Anguka, nor did Anguka seek him out. Others went to visit the Minister, or called him, on hearing the news of the accident, for example, but not Anguka.

Just before Dr Ouko’s murder his old friend Jonah Anguka, according to his own narrative, is hardly to be seen in contact with the Minister but afterwards he ‘happened to be here, there, and everywhere from virtually the first hours of Ouko’s disappearance’. [TROK p150]

‘Finally’, Cohen and Odhiambo stated, ‘the import of Anguka’s Absolute Power and of its multiple silences and indirections is located most concretely through its author’s daily and hourly involvement in and observations of the Ouko events’. [TROK 149]

Cohen and Odhiambo noted that Anguka was at the scene where the Ouko’s body was found within two hours of its discovery by the police. He was at Ouko’s Koru home to answer the phone in Ouko’s sitting room when Susan Anguka, his wife, called from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to tell him that the body had been found. He was the first to break the news of her husband’s death to Mrs Ouko. He was at the airport to meet the Scotland Yard team and he introduced Troon to Oyugi and told him the latter would oversee the investigation.  He was with Troon when the safe was opened in Ouko’s bedroom. He interposed himself as a translator when the maid Salina described seeing a white car to Troon. He was with the Kenyan pathologist at Got Alila Hill when Ouko’s body was first examined and he was also in Nairobi when Scotland Yard’s Dr Iain West undertook an autopsy.

For Cohen and Odhiambo, ‘Anguka’s partial and selective presence in the book was itself revealing.’ [TROK p151] Cohen and Odhiambo pondered how Anguka, by his story, was present at so many of the key events during the search for Ouko and the investigation into his murder but silent about his presence at others.  For them, how Anguka chose to write the story he was hardly present at all, except and especially when he could cast himself as a victim of the state’. [TROK 151]

He did not mention in Absolute Power that he was at the airport to meet Troon’s team, writing only, ‘on 21st February New Scotland Yard detectives arrived’ [Absolute Power p70]. Anguka did not mention that it he who had introduced Troon to Oyugi. He did not mention that he was at the autopsies or that he was the translator when Troon interviewed Salina Were. Nor did Anguka mention in his book, even to deny the claim, the affidavit of Barrack Mbajah that alleged he was one of the men that picked Ouko up from the Koru farm in the early hours of the 13th February.

Similarly, Anguka largely airbrushed his relationship with Hezekiah Oyugi from his account: Cohen and Odhiambo noted that, ‘In his treatment of his relations with Oyugi, Anguka… produced a range of fertile silences’[TROK p139], and that ‘otherwise the book is silent on Anguka’s relationship, official and private, with Hezekiah Oyugi. His exceptional access to Oyugi had no reciprocal aspect in Anguka’s telling, and that silence certainly “tells” a stronger story than Jonah Anguka intended.’ [TROK p149]

Ultimately for Cohen and Odhiambo it was what Anguka did not say that was as important, if not more telling, than what he did say in Absolute Power, and the way in which in that book ‘Anguka was virtually always close to the center of the flow of events, but he positioned himself just far enough away that he could be considered “free” of culpability yet close enough that his observations would bear the authority of a near eyewitness to the murder and the cover-up’. [TROK 140]

Pulling together their conclusions about Absolute Power, Professor’s Cohen and Odhiambo kept just on the side of legal rectitude given that they were writing about a man who had been acquitted of Dr Ouko’s murder.

On the story portrayed in Absolute Power they noted that, ‘These may be the moves of an innocent person, laying a broader claim to innocence and standing against the injustice that he suffered at the hands of Kenya’s government. But they were not the moves of an innocent author [their italics].’ [TROK p151]

And, having pointed to Anguka’s use of the interrogative throughout Absolute Power, Cohen and Odhiambo themselves finished the chapter on him in The Risks of Knowledge with the question: ‘But what did Jonah Anguka know, and what did he hide’. [TROK p157].

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