We lived to tell 1982 coup story, says pilot who flew bomb plane
Posted Tuesday, July 31 2012 at 23:30
- More than 100 soldiers and 200 civilians died in coup attempt, women committed suicide after being raped, and damage to economy hit Sh500m
In the early hours of August 1, 1982, exactly 30 years ago today, Kenyans woke up to a coup attempt by junior officers of the Kenya Air Force against the government of President Daniel arap Moi.
More than 100 soldiers and 200 civilians died, including two (West) Germans, an English woman and a Japanese male tourist and his child. Two Asian women committed suicide after being raped, and the economic damage hit the Sh500 million mark.
The madness lasted less than 12 hours. One of the masterminds, Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka Rabala, was Kenya’s “president” for less than six hours.
But the adverse ripple effects of the abortive coup lasted more than two decades.
The national radio, the Voice of Kenya, announced that the military coup was because of among other reasons, the economy being in tatters. Thus a “...curfew has been declared and people are advised to stay indoors... all borders have been closed... all MPs to hide inside their homes for their own safety.”
Police were ordered to behave like any other civilians.
Yet, the poorly planned coup could have been crushed. The Special Branch, which had infiltrated the military, knew about it and had names of the perpetrators.
Two days to the coup, spy chief James Kanyotu asked then President Moi for permission to arrest, among others, Sergeant Joseph, Corporals Charles Oriwa, Walter Ojode, Bramwel Injene Njereman and Senior privates Protas Oteyo Okumu and Hezekiah Ochuka, the coup’s mastermind.
Monday August 2
But the President didn’t deem it fit that the police should get embroiled in military arrests, as that would have been tantamount to insubordination. The matter, he said, would be dealt with internally on Monday, August 2.
But at midnight on August 1, the coup, which involved seizing control of the VOK, the Central Bank of Kenya “to protect people’s money” and blowing up State House Nairobi was under way. Many Kenyans who witnessed the coup recall vividly how this event affected them.
That night for example, Captain Jorim Nyamor was in his house in Nairobi when a colleague, a Corporal Rono came and took forced him out.
He had a gun and threatened to kill Capt Nyamor if he did not follow his orders. Corporal Rono took him to the squadron at their operational base in Nanyuki, where he realised many other colleagues had been kept, too.
It was just a few hours after an announcement had been made over the VOK that the army had overthrown the government.
The announcement was made by the Senior Private Grade 1 officer, Hezekiah Ochuka and was backed immediately by a Nairobi University student leader, Titus Adungosi.
“At the squadron, we were about 20 officers, mostly pilots, who would later be sent to bomb different bases and State House,” Capt Nyamor said.
He flew the StrikeMaster plane with Capt John Mugwanja and Maj David Mutua who was also their leader.
After the realisation that the DoD had not been bombed, Capt Nyamor was directed by the forces to go and drop another bomb himself using the F5 aeroplane.