‘The Washington Trip’ Theory Falls

 

Troon’s ‘Washington Trip’ theory and particularly Barrack Mbajah’s later embellishment that Dr Ouko had been sacked and banished by President Moi, has for 21 years or more provided one of the mainstays of the ‘Executive order’ theory that Ouko was murdered on orders made by high level government figures. The ‘Washington Trip – Executive Order’ theory makes for intriguing and beguiling reading and over the last 21 years the story has grown in the telling – who was there at the murder scene, where it happened and who pulled the trigger – a story that has been repeated in parliament, books, on websites and particularly in the nation’s newspapers time and again almost without challenge.


The problem with the Washington Trip – Executive Order theory is that when the facts are considered, most of which have been publicly available for 20 years, the theory collapses. There was indeed only ‘hearsay’ testimony to support it based on ‘tenuous’ facts. The evidence is all against it.


The theory is based in the first instance on what Barrack Mbajah says Malacki Oddenyo said to him when they met at Dr Ouko’s Loresho home during the period of mourning prior to the funeral. It was thus a theory partly based on an alleged conversation between a man who was not on the ‘Washington Trip’, Barrack Mbajah, with a man who was also not on the trip, Malacki Oddenyo. And, Oddenyo denied the substance of the conversation.


At paragraph 82 of his ‘Final Report’, Troon stated that, ‘The alleged conversation has been put to Mr Oddenyo at interview on 14th May 1990. Mr Oddenyo admits visiting the Loresho home between the finding of the Minister’s body, and the funeral, as part of the funeral committee. He states he did converse with Barrack Mbajah on these visits but denies that he discussed the Washington trip or the relationship between Dr Ouko and Mr Biwott’.


Troon took the view that Barrack Mbajah’s testimony supported that of Dorothy Randiak’s later, mainly verbal testimony, gave sufficient to give the theory substance but it does so only in part.


In her first two written statements (made on the 2nd and 27th of March, 1990) Dorothy Randiak did not mention the trip to Washington. Her first two statements were entirely about a row in Dr Ouko’s family, particularly regarding a long-running dispute with his brother Barrack.


In her first two statements Randiak did refer to meetings with her brother Robert on February 6th and 9th but stated that their conversations revolved around his concerns at his brother’s actions at the first meeting and accident he had been involved at the second meeting.


It was only during Dorothy Randiak’s third witness statement made on 11th April that she mentioned the Washington trip. In that statement she said, “On the 6 February 1990 when he came to see me at the College it was around 12 o’clock. I asked him if he could have lunch, he said he did not have an appetite for lunch, he looked worried and not cheerful as he used to be. I asked him about his trip to the US he said it was good, he said our President was invited to address the Prayer Breakfast and he said there was a lot of business and Government people, he said the President talked to them about the word of God, he actually preached the Bible, people appeared to be very happy. Robert told me that our President totally converted the minds of people who thought that Anti Christ was being preached in Kenya.’ [DR statement, 11 April, 1990].


It was only at this point, some 50 days after the Scotland Yard investigations had begun, on the penultimate page of her third witness statement that Dorothy Randiak, on being asked, referred in any way to the Washington trip ‘row’.  At this point she stated, ‘I commended Robert for the Press Conference he held in the US and I also drew notice to letters of commendation which had been written by Kenyans about the conference. He made the following comment in Luo language, “MAGI EGIK MANEGA” which translated to English means “THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT WILL KILL ME”. He was referring to the Press Conference in America and the number of letters he had received in the media.’


Troon also failed to point out that Dorothy Randiak’s alleged assertion that she spoke with Bethuel Kiplagat and that they had a conversation that supported the row theory, does not appear in any of Randiak’s three written statements. And again, the supposed source, Kiplagat, denied the substance of the conversation [TFR para 98].


Bethuel Kiplagat gave a very different account of the Washington trip (that he had been on) to that reported by Dorothy Randiak.


In Kiplagat’s witness statement made to Troon on 11th May 1990, he stated that ‘I did not see Mrs Ouko but I did see his sister Dorothy. I had a general conversation with her but I did not mention to her that Dr Ouko was worried or concerned about anything.’ [Bethuel Kiplagat Witness Statement]


As to a meeting with President Bush and any row on the Washington trip, Kiplagat had this to say: ‘There was one press conference held in Washington on the day of our departure. This conference was given by Dr Ouko and I and other members of the delegation were present but not all… There was no formal meeting of the delegation as to who should appear on the press conference but our PR people in the US advised us that this should be Dr Ouko. As far as I am aware there was no member of the delegation who objected to Dr Ouko giving the press conference… I can say that Dr Ouko did not meet any other US Government official privately or officially. All the time I was with Dr Ouko, I never found anything unusual in his character or behaviour in the USA or his return. He was contented and happy and said how pleased he was that the visit turned out well. As far as I could see and understand there was no friction or misunderstanding between Dr Ouko or any other member of the delegation in the USA.  His relationship with Mr Biwott was normal and there was no interference and they supported one another…’


Kiplagat added, ‘The last time I saw Dr Ouko was on Monday the 5th of February when we met at State House with the President and the Canadian Ambassador and Dr Ouko was his usual self and did not appear worried’.  [Behuel Kiplagat Statement 11 May 1990].


Troon obviously accepted the word of Barrack Mbajah and Dorothy Randiak and not that of Bethuel Kiplagat (not that he remembered even interviewing Kiplagat) and conspiracy theorists have done like wise ever since. The “he would say that” sentiment has led people, including Troon, to all but dismiss Kiplagat’s testimony but he was only one of many who testified along the same lines.


‘Mr Onyango had known the Minister for some 25 years and was also very close friend of the family’, according to Troon (para 134). He visited Dr Ouko at his Koru farm on Saturday 10th February, some three days before he was murdered. Troon recorded that when Onyango and Ouko met that day they had a ‘general discussion’ and that, ‘They spoke about the Washington Trip which according to Mr Onyango, Dr Ouko had said went well with President Moi gaining popularity’.


Moses Njuguna Mahuga was the Chief of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and a member of the delegation that flew to Washington said that ‘Dr. Ouko seemed his normal self throughout and gave no visible indication that he was worried or concerned about anything’. In a witness statement on 24 May, 1990, he stated:


‘I travelled from London to Washington by concorde and accompanied the President and a number of ministers including Dr Robert Ouko, Mr Oyugi and Mr Biwott. During this visit which was a Prayer Breakfast and therefore looked upon as private visit, I accompanied the President throughout the programme. The late Dr Ouko was also accompanying His Excellency. To my knowledge I am not aware that Dr Ouko met politicians or congressmen in his official capacity. The only time I am aware that he would have come into contact with such persons would be when we met collectively at various functions’.


Mr. Baker, the U.S. Secretary of State met the President at our hotel and Dr. Ouko was also present and other cabinet ministers including Mr. Biwott, President Bush and President Moi met with other Heads of State only. I am not aware of any incident of friction or disagreement between any member of the delegation throughout the trip to Washington. The return trip to Kenya was without incident. Dr. Ouko travelled on concorde to London with the President and then by Kenya Airways to Nairobi. On arrival in Nairobi Dr. Ouko seemed his normal self and had travelled in his normal position on the aircraft which is a double seat next to the President’s double seat. Dr. Ouko would be seated next to Mr. Biwott… the President and Dr. Ouko were in conversation in the normal manner. In fact, on arrival at Nairobi, Dr. Ouko passed a note to me for Mr. Kiplagat indicating that His Excellency wished to see the Canadian High Commissioner the following morning at State House at 9am. On that morning, Dr. Ouko was also present. That is the last time I saw the late minister. As Chief of Protocol, it was my own responsibility to plan the programme for the trip to Washington. Should there have been any open incident which had occurred during this visit, I am sure that I would have some knowledge of it’. [114 Witness statement Moses Njuguna Mahugu]


Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States at the time of the ‘Washington Trip’, Mr. Denis D. Afande, C.B.S., was moved some eight years later (30 October, 1998) to issue a lengthy statement in the ‘hope that those who read it will ignore some of the malicious rumours which have appeared in the media, books and other publications on the death of the late Minister for Foreign Affairs and attempting to connect it with the [Washington] visit’.


In his statement… he stated that Dr Ouko and Nicholas Biwott had travelled together in the  official car ‘to all common destinations of events of the programme for the visit’, and that, ‘As I had the opportunity of being with them, I can verify that they were both very happy and enjoyed travelling together. I did not see any incident of “bad blood” between them as has been alleged”. [119 letter to Mr Kathuirima from Denis Afande, 30 October, 1998].


Denis Afande said he was present at ‘all meetings which H.E. the President held with some U.S. Congressmen, the Secretary of State, James Baker, The Assistant Secretary for Africa, Howard Cohen and other groups… I also attended the meetings which the Minister of Foreign Affairs the late Dr Robert Ouko held at the [Willard Intercontinental] hotel’, and, ‘I was also present during most of the briefings by the Minister [Ouko] to His Excellency the President on those he (the Minister) met. H.E the President was happy with the discussions the Minister was holding and expressed his appreciation to that effect’.


Significantly, Denis Afande declared, ‘Having been involved in making the appointments for the meetings the late Dr Ouko attended, I am not aware of any meetings he held with other U.S. Government officials not indicated in the programme’, and, ‘I am surprised to hear rumours that there was a secret meeting between President Bush and the late Minister. There was no meeting between the two’ [our underlining]. 


The Kenya police ‘Further Investigations’ Report stated that, ‘The security officials and other Government officials who were with the Kenyan delegation were interviewed and all denied any knowledge of the alleged quarrel or conflict between Hon. Biwott and Dr. Ouko’, and concluded that, ‘There is no evidence to confirm that Dr. Ouko while in Washington met President Bush, an action which is alleged to have infuriated Hon. Biwott and caused the conflict’. [KPFI p43, 7:4 (ii)]


So the testimony of those on the ‘Washington Trip’, the view of the Kenya police, and even it seems the words of Dr Ouko at the time strongly suggest that there was no ‘row’ and that the alleged cause of the ‘row’, a meeting between Dr Ouko and President Bush, did not take place. But was there any independent evidence to back this up? The answer is yes there was and the evidence for it seems to be reliably based.


In 2003 President Bush’s diary from the relevant period, giving a minute-by-minute account of Bush’s activities and meetings, was made public by the Bush Presidential Library at the Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The Library, which is U.S. Government funded and administered, keeps documentary and photographic archives of President Bush’s period in office.


The entries for the three days that the Kenyan delegation was in Washington make no mention of any private meeting between President Bush, Dr Ouko, or President Moi. [120]


The archivist at the Bush Library, Warren Finch, searched the library’s files and stated that there were no photographs of Bush meeting Ouko.


And 31 August 2000, President Bush’s lawyer (Andrew & Kurth LLP) confirmed that ‘Mr Finch’s statement and the accompanying archival materials… constitute the most accurate record of the events described’. [121]


It would appear that the alleged meeting during the ‘Washington Trip’ between Dr. Robert Ouko and President George Bush never took place.


For the sake of investigating the ‘row – sacked – banished’ theory however, let us look for any evidence that might support or undermine it from the time Dr Ouko returns to Nairobi.


The theory ran that Dr Ouko had been sacked, not flown back on the same flight as the rest of the delegation, had his passport removed when he did get back to Jomo Kenyatta Airport, was sacked by President Moi and banished to his Koru farm, and had his official body bodyguard and driver removed.


Eston Barrack Mbajah, Dr Ouko’s brother, stated in his affidavit or 13 September, 1991 that’ ‘I was informed by my late brother that, after arriving from America, my brother’s passport was seized at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by security officials’. [110]


The evidence to destroy this theory is if anything even more solid than those that undermine the ‘meeting with Bush led to row’ theory.


One of the most conclusive pieces of proof that is and has been readily available for 21 years, and should have been used by investigating authorities and the media to discredit the ‘banished theory’ is the photographic evidence that proves he landed with Moi and the delegation on 4th February, 1990.


The departure and return of Moi’s delegation to Washington were public and newsworthy events. Not only were hundreds of people at Jomo Kenyatta Airport there to see the delegation depart and return, so were the mass media in Kenya at the time.


Photographs available in archives in Nairobi, dated 4th February 1990, clearly show President Moi coming off the Kenya Airways flight, meeting assembled dignitaries and crowd, walking amongst the crowd and being welcomed by dancers.


A few steps behind Moi, in clear view, is the figure of Dr. Robert Ouko. There are photographs too of Moi and Ouko together greeting the people and walking among the crowd. Ouko was on that flight.


The evidence is also overwhelming that Dr Ouko continued to act in his official capacity after returning from the ‘Washington Trip’, continued to give instructions to his staff and was planning to fly to the Gambia in his official capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs on the 14th February.


On Monday 5th February, the day after returning from Washington, Dr Ouko was at State House at a meeting between President Moi and the Canadian Ambassador. [1, TFR para 9, 97 and 220]


Later that day Ouko travelled to Koru, driven by his official driver Joseph Yogo Otieno and accompanied by his bodyguard Gordon Ondu.


On Thursday 8 February at 8.30am Ouko telephoned his Permanent Secretary, Bethuel Kiplagat, to cancel a press conference due for that evening. [1 TFR para 14]


On the same day at about 11am, Dr Ouko gave instructions to his bodyguard Gordon Ondu to take time off and report back to him on 12th February. [1 TFR para 16]


On Saturday 10 February 1990, Dr Ouko opened the first Inter-Country Conference of Rotary District 920 in Kisumu. [1 TFR para 17 and 112 photo of DRO plus article at event]


On Monday 12th February Dr Ouko called Mr Susan Ngeso Anguka, his Personal Assistant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and told her he would be back in the office on the following morning. [1 para 21]


At about 4pm on the 12th February Dr Ouko called his bodyguard Gordon Ondu and told him to be at the Bata Shoe Shop in Kisumu at 8am the next morning (February 13th) and that they would then proceed to Kisumu Airport to board the morning flight to Nairobi. [1 TFR para 22]


Throughout the entire period from Ouko return from Washington until the day before his was killed, his wife Mrs Christabel Ouko continued to use his official driver, Joseph Yogo Otieno. [TFR para 108] 


The evidence of Dr Ouko’s Chief of Protocol, Moses Njuguna Mahuga, was that he was expecting Dr Ouko to travel to the Gambia on 14th February to represent President Moi at the 25th anniversary of Gambia’s independence. Ouko was booked on flight KQ 164 and government officials were waiting for him to arrive at Nairobi airport for the flight.


As for Dr Ouko’s passport, which according to his brother Barrack over a year later, had been confiscated on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta Airport on 4th February, 1990, there is all but conclusive evidence that no such event took place.


On 13th March, 1990, Mrs Christabel Ouko signed the following short statement to Superintendent John Troon of Scotland Yard. ‘I would wish to state further to the statement that I have given to Superintendent John Troon that today on the request of the C.I.D Nairobi I have handed over my passport No D0002818 and that of my late husband passport No D002700’. [Christabel Ouko’s statement, 13 March 1990]


If Dr Ouko’s passport had been ‘seized’ how did Mrs Ouko happen to have it to hand to Troon? And if it had been seized, why did Mrs Ouko never mention it in any of her testimony?


So Dr Ouko wasn’t sacked, his passport was not removed, he was not banished and his bodyguard and driver were not ‘removed’.


That Dr Ouko was planning to fly to Gambia as Kenya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, there can be little or no doubt. Ouko told the same to his ministry staff, his bodyguard, his wife, his daughter Lillian, his sister Dorothy, and, if they are to believed, Marianne Briner Mattern and Hezekiah Oyugi. And the alert that Dr Ouko was missing was raised because he did not turn up, as he was expected to do, at Nairobi Airport on 14th February to board Kenya Airways flight KQ 164 to The Gambia.


Of course Barrack Mbajah’s testimony, and Troon’s theory from which it arose, was that there was not just a row in Washington between Biwott and Ouko over a meeting the latter was alleged to have had with President Bush but that it was sufficiently vehement for it to be a motive for murder. But there is also substantial evidence that Nicholas Biwott and Dr Ouko, far from being at each others throats were at least working together amicably.


Biwott and Ouko shared a car together in Washington and London. They stayed on the same floor in the same hotel together in Washington and London. And as we have seen they seem to have been on the same flight together, a fact further confirmed by the release in 2003 of the seating plan British Airways Flight BA 189 (Concorde) for Monday 29 January, 1990. [115, 116, 117]


There is also evidence in Dr Ouko’s own handwriting relating to an offer of employment for his son Ken that goes against the Biwott-Ouko row theory.


Dr Ouko’s diary entry for 2nd February 1990 (so when he would have been on the way back from Washington), reads, ‘Hon. Biwott told me Ken is to be recruited to the Ministry of Energy, even as a student’. A witness, James K’Oyoo, who was in all other respects very much an adverse witness as far as Biwott was concerned, confirmed that the entry was in Dr Ouko’s own hand [118]. It seems unlikely that Biwott, then the Minister for Energy, would have offered Dr Ouko’s son a job if his was a deadly enemy of his father at the time.


But if the ‘Washington Trip’ was not the scene of a ‘row’ what would account for Troon’s assertions that Dr Ouko was ‘pensive’ and worried on his return?


In so much that there is testimony and evidence that something was deeply concerning Dr Ouko at this time there appear to be several other well attested reasons as to possible causes, as we shall see.


And even Troon was eventually to admit that the basis for the ‘Washington Trip’ allegation, Dr Ouko’s Brother Barrack Mbajah, was not necessarily ‘a witness of truth’.