Is another coup d’etat in the offing in Kenya?

Posted: June 11, 2014 in Kenya, USA
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Recently, Kenyans have had to grapple with political uncertainity surrounding theirt country since the return of ‘baba’ as they ‘fondly’ refer to him.After 3 months sabatical in USA, many eyebrows were raised regarding the purpose of his visit.Many alluded that he was on a sponsored training by Obama’s (his distant cousin) government on how to overthrow the legitimately voted government by the majority of Kenyans in 2013 general elections. Prior to his welcoming party in Nairobi’s Uhuru park, politicians could be heard issuing ultimatums and issuing threats to take over power by force,a tactic that western backed oppositions have used to overthrow governments all over the world. Whether this is the plot, we are yet to see.Raila was adversely mentioned in 1982 attempt that led Moi to turning Kenya into a police state. This could be his second attempt at it but only time will tell. CORD agenda is to bring chaos to Kenya. The kind of talks its leaders are holding is the exact recipe of 2007 post election violence.
But just how did the failed attempt unfold? We tackle that below.

The 1982 Kenyan coup d’état attempt was a failed attempt to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi’s government. At midnight on Sunday, 1 August 1982, a group of soldiers from the Kenya Air Force took over the radio station Voice of Kenya and announced that they had overthrown the government. The group tried to force a group of Air Force fighter pilots to bomb the State House at gunpoint. The pilots pretended to follow the orders on the ground but once airborne they ignored them and instead dropped the bombs over Mount Kenya’s forests.

Hezekiah Ochuka Rabala masterminded the 1982 coup

Hezekiah Ochuka Rabala masterminded the 1982 coup

Hezekiah Ochuka, a Senior Private Grade-I (the second lowest rank in the Kenyan military), ruled Kenya for about six hours before escaping to Tanzania. After being extradited back to Kenya, he was tried and found guilty of leading the coup attempt and hanged in 1987. Also implicated in the coup attempt was Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former Vice-President to Jomo Kenyatta, and his son Raila Amolo Odinga. The putsch was quickly suppressed by forces commanded by Chief of General Staff Mahamoud Mohamed, a veteran Somali military official. They included the General Service Unit (GSU) — a paramilitary wing of the police — and later the regular police.

The plan
Ochuka had become obsessed with becoming the President of Kenya at one time in his lifetime. He had the words “The next president of Kenya” carved on his desk and this led him to quickly accept a proposal by Obuon and Oteyo to overthrow the government which was being led by Daniel Moi.The air force plotters were largely from the Luo ethnic group, and were equally unhappy with the political developments which had marginalised the Luos in the affairs of the nation. Other civilians in Kenya who were disenchanted with the dictatorship that had enveloped Kenya provided assistance to the coup planners.

He went ahead to recruit some soldiers from his base at Embakasi and this included those who ranked higher than him. There was a heated debate of who would become the chairman of the People Redemption Council(PRC) so that he would assume the presidency position after the coup.In his part, Obuon cited that he had recruited the largest number of soldiers into the plan and so he warranted the chairmanship.Obuon also added the fact that he had served as the chairman of the Airmen’s mess. Ochuka had threatened that all soldiers he had recruited would quit the plan if he was not selected as the chairman. Obuon and Ochuka had a heated debate that almost broke into a fight over the chairmanship until Oteyo intercepted and advised Obuon to leave the chairmanship to Ochuka who they would kill after the successful coup. Ochuka was a smart soldier since he knew what lurked behind the brains of Obuon and Oteyo. He immediately rallied support from soldiers to him as an individual and he went further to build a protective wall around him.He also rallied support from Obuon’s old political friend and it is believed that the old friend even gave him two million shillings and a second hand car. He had also managed to steal some military communication equipment which he had set up at a private house in Nairobi which was located a few kilometres from the city center.

ATTEMPTS launched
On Saturday July 31, intense movements and rearrangements were made. The organising group first met in Umoja and then regrouped at a joint in Shauri Moyo Estate. Ochuka, who had earlier briefed Raila, provided a similar briefing to Sumba and Opwapo. Later that night, they all congregated at the command post on Ngong Road. The process began when Ochuka finally came to the command post. He ordered a few people to remain at the command post. These were basically experts in communication.During this meeting, Ochuka told the attendees that he had the support of Uganda, Tanzania and Sudan who would send their soldiers to the borders to counter any oppositions.He went further to allege that he had the blessings of Russia who would send a Soviet ship to the Kenyan coast to guide against any external interference. Ochuka had made up all these stories to convince his recruits to take up the risk in the mission.

The attempt to take over the Moi government began at Embakasi military base. The only reason why Embakasi was chosen, was because the armourer, who had agreed to co-operate with the plotters, was based there. He was to open the armoury for the insurgents to take weapons with which they were to capture Eastleigh, Langata and Kahawa barracks.

Opwapo led the group that stormed Embakasi. They went into the base as civilians. Although as they opened the armoury the alarm went off, they took weapons as planned. They ordered the duty officer to surrender. He did. On interrogation later, the duty officer described Opwapo as a civilian who must have been very highly trained.

Opwapo’s team bombed the normal line of communication between Embakasi and the Department of Defence. However, as they tried to exit at the gate, they were challenged. The resulting exchange of fire alerted the Embakasi police who rang police headquarters when the firing persisted. The police headquarters, wanting to know what was happening, contacted the Department of Defence headquarters. Opwapo’s group moved quickly and captured Eastleigh Air Force base. But the alert that started from Embakasi led to a counter plan, and the group that was to take Langata Barracks was ambushed and crippled.

As the operation began, Ochuka, Raila, Sumba and Oteyo all left the command post to survey developments at the targeted installations. They were parked outside Broadcasting House as it was being taken over by Ochuka’s forces from Embakasi. They then drove to Langata, switched on the transmitters and by 6:00am the first announcement was broadcast. Later in the morning, Ochuka, Oteyo, Raila, and Sumba drove to Eastleigh Air Force Base. Ochuka and Oteyo went inside and ordered Raila and Sumba as civilians to remain outside.

As they waited outside, they saw the people of Nairobi in a celebration, the type of which had never been seen before. When Ochuka and Oteyo did not come out, Raila and Sumba decided to move to town. They stopped at the house of one of Raila’s acquaintances in Parklands. Suddenly, just after 11:00am, the music of the old regime was back on air and they realised that something had gone wrong, and that the regime had retaken control of the Voice of Kenya, so they went out to find out what was going on.

On the morning when President Moi appeared to have lost power, Musomba was woken up at 1:00am by the late George Kimeto, the Provincial Intelligence and Security Officer. Musomba’s command base was in Gilgil, but he slept in Nakuru. He was informed that the President had lost communication with Nairobi and wanted to know what was happening there. Musomba quickly found that the army communication network was still functioning. Having established that a coup d’etat by some air force officers was in progress, he spoke to Moi, received his instructions, and began to deploy his own forces to counter the coup attempt. He blocked the road to Nakuru at Gilgil, and sent troops to Nairobi and Nanyuki.

At 3:15am, Moi called Elijah Sumbeiywo, the commander of the Presidential Police Escort, and told him what had happened. Sumbeiywo immediately called his brother, Major Lazarus Sumbeiywo. Since Moi knew about the efforts of Musomba and those of General Mohamud Mohamed, the Deputy Army Commander, in Nairobi, he refused to leave his Kabarak home. The two brothers forced the President into Lazarus’ Peugeot 204 car to take him to safety, initially outside the country, but later in the bush. Subsequently, the President was returned to Nakuru State Lodge as reports filtered through, that the coup was being crushed.

By midday, the President insisted that he must return to Nairobi. Musomba received the order from his superiors to escort the President to Nairobi with 100 men and two armoured cars.

In Nairobi, Musomba took over from General Mohamed, at the Voice of Kenya where Mohamed had rallied troops (mainly cooks, suppliers, education instructors and other non-regular armed men) from the logistics base in Kahawa and succeeded in retaking the broadcasting house.

At some point they called the command post and asked Opwapo to take Sumba’s car to Dr. Akinyi’s house and pick them up. On the way, Opwapo, who was driving, and Snr. Private Ogidi Obuon, ran into an army ambush. They were shot at. The bullet missed, but they were captured and taken to the Department of Defence. Ogidi knew there was no way out for him, but decided to save Opwapo by claiming that he had hijacked Opwapo. They were taken in and Ogidi was taken away. In the evening, an old man had Opwapo released by claiming he was a friend with whom he watched football. As it became clear, things had crumbled, Raila and Sumba began planning how to escape from Nairobi.

Oteyo said that the coup failed because most of the soldiers did not execute their parts of the plan since most of the soldiers were busy looting instead of going to arrest the president and his ministers. The coup leader Ochuka, had gone to fetch a radio presenter, Leonard Mambo Mbotela.

The coup left more than 100 soldiers dead and more than 200 civilians who included two Germans, an English woman, and a Japanese male tourist and his child, and two Asian women took away their lives after being raped during the coup.

After the foiled coup, the organizers were arrested and tried at the martial courts in the Kenya Army Langata Barracks.Corporal Bramwel Injeni Njereman who was an armaments technician was the first to be convicted of treason on 24 November 1984. He was found guilty of five overt acts and sentenced to death by being hanged. Corporal Walter Odira Ojode was the second to be charged of the same offence on 16 December 1982 of which he was found guilty and he also received the death penalty. Both appealed their cases but they still lost the cases. The death sentences were executed on the night of 10 July 1985 at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison together with coup mastermind Hezekiah Ochuka and his counterpart Pancras Oteyo Okumu. Up to date they are the last people to be executed under the death penalty under the Kenyan law.After the coup attempt, the entire Kenya Air Force was disbanded. In the end, a total of twelve people had been sentenced to death, and over 900 were jailed. The convicts who were hanged were buried at the Kamiti maximum prison.

During the court trials, the name of Oginga Odinga was mentioned several times as having financed the organizers and he was put under house arrest. His son Raila Odinga together with other university lecturers were sent to detention after being charged for treason. Up to date Raila Odinga is the longest serving detainee in Kenya.

For three weeks, Musomba carried out a mop-up operation in Nairobi to find the other plotters. But Ochuka and Oteyo had grabbed an aircraft and flown to Tanzania. Musomba’s next order was to chair the court martial that tried the coupists.

The coup attempt is also a direct cause for the snap elections in 1983.

In response to alleged campus involvement in the failed coup, the Kenyan government accused external communist sources of secretly funding the attempt

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