Robert Ouko: Elders still call for justice 28 years on - Daily Nation

Keeping Robert Ouko's name alive 28 years on

Wednesday February 14 2018

Dr Robert Ouko

Mr James Okaka, the Project Coordinator of Ouko Community Initiative-Kenya, shows some of the memorabilia at the Dr Robert Ouko Memorial Community Library in Maram village, Kisumu County, on February 13, 2018. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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Who killed Dr Robert Ouko? This is a question that puzzles both family and friends of the former Foreign Affairs Minister, 28 years after his assassination.

Dr Ouko disappeared from his farm in Koru village, Muhoroni Constituency in Kisumu County, on the night of February 12, 1990.

On February 16, the government announced that his body had been found at Got Alila, a few kilometres from his home.

The body had been mutilated and burnt.

Twenty-eight years later, Kenyans are still waiting to see the minister’s killers brought to book.

Former Kisumu East MP Erick Gor Sunguh, who chaired a parliamentary select committee investigating the death, says: “His killers are well-known”.

“My committee was the first to carry out an investigation in London, where we engaged officials from the New Scotland Yard before we tabled our report in Parliament.

"But, unfortunately, it was never debated. It was not an easy task,” Mr Sunguh says.

He adds: “The evidence is well-documented in our report. It is upon MPs to revisit the matter. They can even conduct fresh investigations.”

Not all however are ready to discuss the murder.

At his native home in Nyahera, Kisumu West Constituency, villagers are cautious when talking about it.

“Many witnesses have lost their lives in mysterious circumstances. We would not want to be part of the statistics,” a villager in Nyahera says.

Luo Council of Elders chairman Ker Willis Opiyo Otondi, from Nyahera village, says:

“It has taken many years and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. But we won’t tire to call for justice.”

Mr Otondi however expresses fear that a probe and prosecution may not be concluded owing to lack of commitment “by the powers that be”.

“There is very little we can do as a community but we hope that one day justice shall prevail,” Mr Otondi says.

Mr Michael Otieno, quoting American social reformer Frederick Douglass, says:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

“It is for this reason that sobriety needs to prevail in any probe on Dr Ouko’s death and other assassinations,” Mr Otieno says.

Justice for Dr Ouko has been elusive. Even his wife Christabel Ouko died without witnessing any of the suspects convicted.

Mrs Ouko died in a road crash at Kipsitet junction on the Kisumu-Kericho Highway on August 21, 2017.

This is the spot where her husband had also suffered an accident a few days before he was killed.

Mrs Ouko retreated from public limelight after her husband’s death.

Service to the local community is what would define her legacy.

She ventured into projects that would keep her husband’s name alive and will be remembered for launching the Ouko Community Initiative in 2012.

The initiative includes programmes that support needy students, a community library, shelter for students and book donations to schools. 

At Koru, about 50 km west of Kisumu City, stands the Dr Robert Ouko Memorial Community Library.

It is one of Mrs Ouko’s pet projects and a fitting gift to Muhoroni Sub-County and the environs. 

Launched five years ago, it celebrates the life of Dr Ouko.

Many residents visit the centre to study and read newspapers and magazines.

In this rural village, the stone-walled library with red-roofing provides the right ambience for students revising for examinations.

It can house up to 60 people and is stocked mainly with school books and newspapers.

It is adjacent to a primary school, also named after the former minister.

Children here also take part in drama, debate and poetry competitions.

There are also seasonal modelling and artwork competitions aimed mostly at keeping the youth away from crime.

Mr Richard Oketch, manager of the community initiative, told the Nation in a previous interview that the programme has benefited immensely from well-wishers, both local and international.

“These projects are some of Mama Christabel’s initiatives to improve literacy in the area,” he said.

He said that the library has modern gadgets such as e-readers, which provide age-appropriate and government specified textbooks in multiple subjects, including African and international titles.

“We have 250 e-readers, each with over 300 books. There are also laptop computers at Menara Primary School in Koru.

"These projects aim at influencing the society positively through increased literacy and community development in line with the Vision 2030.”