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Monday, July 23, 2007

August 1st 1982 Coup Attempt: Unanswered Questions Linger

The nation will mark the 25th anniversary of the failed Kenyan coup attempt of 1982 this August in the face of a number of unresolved
questions.

Amongst this is the fate of the dramatic broadcast by the de facto head of the coup attempt and Chairman of the self-styled Peoples’ Redemption
Council (PRC), Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka. The said broadcast was made at 6.00 a.m., Sunday morning, 1st August 1982 on the General Service of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (then Voice of Kenya – VOK).

It is unclear how many people across Kenya heard Ochuka speak that morning, but those who did will certainly remember the broadcast for it’s eloquence, good voice intonation, conviction and clear articulation. I fall into a category of people who got to hear the broadcast by coincidence.

In those days, the Voice of Kenya state monopoly began radio broadcasts at 6.00 a.m. in the morning and television broadcasts at 2.00 p.m. in the afternoon on weekends, and 4.00 p.m. in the afternoon on weekdays.
24 hour radio and television broadcasts by the state and privately owned stations that we have today, did not exist in those days.

On Sunday mornings in those days, Voice of Kenya (VOK), began the 6.00 a.m. commencement of broadcasting with a brief news bulletin, followed by a interlude of music that went on to 6.15 a.m. After this would be a 15 minute session/interview with a studio guest, as I recall.

One of my older brothers liked listening to the then Sunday morning interlude of music that followed the brief 6.00 a.m. news broadcast. I didn’t care very much for the news bulletin and/or the music interlude
in those days, and therefore only intermittently listened to both when I happened to be awake. Sunday morning 1st August 1982 happened to be one of those times. I remember my older brother switching on the radio we then had at about 5.55 a.m.

On this occasion however there was just silence from Broadcasting House. The National Anthem was not even played before daily commencement of radio and television broadcasting, as was the practice at VOK in those days.

Then came Ochuka’s voice out of the blue, announcing that the KANU Government had been overthrown and that the Peoples Redemption Council (PRC), had taken charge. It took a few seconds for both my older brother and I to register what was unfolding, but we both remained silent as we continued to keenly listen.

The address must have lasted no more than two minutes, and much of what Ochuka said that morning is blurred and obscured in both our memories. Other than the announcement of the takeover by the Peoples’ Redemption Council (PRC), four other things I distinctly remember Ochuka mentioning were “…the economy is in shambles…”, “…Government ministers have grown rich overnight…”, “…the KANU regime has impoverished the masses…” and the decree of the immediate disbandment of the Kenya Police Force, and immediate replacement of the same by the Military.

Ochuka must have been reading a prepared speech, but the striking feature that will remain forever embedded, is the resolve, eloquence and articulation that he spoke with. His voice was neither raised nor
angry, and the delivery was made with good voice intonation and the clarity and conviction of a revolutionary who believed in the cause that he was pursuing. There was no flamboyance and no use of complex vocabulary. The brief morning address on 1st August 1982 by Ochuka, certainly revealed a man who had committed himself to a cause.

What became of the master tape of this recording…? Is it still intact or was it destroyed in the heavy exchange of fire later that morning between Ochuka’s Air Force men and Kenya Army Officers under the
command of then Army commander Brig. Mahmoud Mohammed…? If it is still intact, is it in the hands of either the Court Marshall instituted thereafter, the National Security and Intelligence Service (the
then Special Branch), or the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (then Voice of Kenya)? Will the recording ever be made available to the public? These questions need to be asked on the floor of Parliament, to enable
official responses from the Minister of State in charge of Internal Security and the Minister of Information.

The US Government for instance, will only release classified information on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on or after November 22nd 2063, 100 years after his assassination. During the
Ghanaian Golden Jubilee celebrations of independence that began on 6th March 2007, the BBC World Service did a series of programs covering the momentous event, on which were aired the national broadcasts made in
Ghana at the time of their military coups in 1966, 1979 and 1980. This was certainly done with the express authority of the Ghanaian Government. The British Government also declassifies sensitive information every forty years. Out of these continuous declassifications the Kenyan public has for instance come to learn about how the British initially intended to grant independence to Kenya in 1973, and about how nearly all movable and immovable assets of the
outgoing British colonial Government were forcibly transferred to the incoming independent Government of Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, at an unreasonably high financial cost. So will the public be able to access
Ochuka’s famous broadcast on or after 1st August 2022, 1st August 2032 or 1st August 2082…?

History should not forget Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka, Senior Private Pancreas Otenyo Okumu and the attempted coup of August 1st 1982 as a whole. Was Hezekiah Ochuka a driven idealistic Marxist revolutionary who stood for an egalitarian society as did Che Guevara, or was he a deranged despot like Pol Pot, Jean Bedel Bokassa, and Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier…?

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7 comments:

Mumbi wa Gikuyu said...

I am actually HORRIFIED that anyone can imagine that the actions of Ochuka should be written in the history of this country leave alone remember the man or his accomplices.

Anyone that loves democracy would not acclaim any speech by deviants like Ochuka. Kenyans have gone to elect their leaders every five years bar two occassions and in each election, they have elected and gotten the leaders they DESERVED. Some have been BAD but it is the price you pay for democracy.

I cannot imagine anyone would want to hear the words of that morning, and especially those that were grown up and knew the consequencies of that days adventure.

PS. Hopefully this will not be deleted as has happened to previuos interventions on articles posted in Kumekucha.

Anonymous said...

That is one tape that I would not be interested in listening.

chris said...

Hey guys check this shamelessly low punch under the belt by mumbi wa gikuyu;

She said;
P.S. Hopefully this will not be deleted as has happened to previuos interventions on articles posted in Kumekucha.

Now ladies and gentlemen, how many times has Kumekucha deleted unpalatable comments? Just sift through posts in this blog and let me know. Theer are so many nasty comments that I even get criticized for not deleting. I have done so very, very, very few times. Even an abusive comment about my queen (Mrs Kumekucha) has not been deleted to date.

This is a free speech zone, Mumbi.

Mumbi my dear, kindly get your facts correct please, just as you demand the same of me.

-Kumekucha-

vikii said...

You know what people? I rarely see anything good in Raila but I will put the record straight that had I been a grown up (I was three months old) at the time of the coup, I would have supported it. Of course Raila likes claiming credit even in feats he played negligent roles in but I will give credit to him for morally supporting that failed coup.Why?

Look here my sister Mumbi, Kenyans have always had the leaders they deserved especially the elected leaders but dont u also think four years after Moi took over he had a duty to organize democratic competitive elections. If Moi had called elections, he would have won them but he chose not to do it. Now tell me how else to get rid of an illegitimate government. Moi should have done what Andrew Johnson did after the death of Lincoln.

We all have suffered due to KANU's misrule, generally speaking. But I am saying for the second time here that my personal(family) life took a different turn after that coup. All this was attributed to the infamous 'msaliti' nonsense and it makes my heart beat faster and wish i was a grown up. I would have been extremely active so that i suffer deservedly. Life has never been the same and I still believe Moi and even Kenyatta deserved violent ousters for the simple fact that they locked up democracy in the closet.

I was reading those queer mashada debates the other day and they were criticizing raila for supposedly 'organizing' a coup and I asked myself 'what's wrong with that?' How else do u replace a 'guerilla' kind of government? in my opinion Ochuka and everyone else who took part in that coup deserves a pat on the back, of course assuming they were doing it for the good of kenya.

vikii said...

Sorry folks, I meant negligible roles. This time it is Barcadi running the show.

luke said...

If they could eventually open up Nyayo torture house chambers, surely they can one day make available for public archives the events of that day
After all, doesn't the govt claim it has increased democratic space? it claims people can now breath easily as they discuss matters of national security e.g. apparently the president's health has been discussed with ordinary wanainchi as was alleged here by a commentator some times ago
let us also be privy to such secrets please

Anonymous said...

vikii ... u obviously have not read history

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