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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chilly Memories Of Nairobi (Kenya Betrayed)

Spain - some weeks before...

Sitting on my terrace and watching the beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, I recalled how I had gone to Kenya in the late Seventies - convinced to do the right thing for the best of country.

I had used the connections my ex-husband had established for me within the political and financial circles not only in Switzerland but also in Germany and Italy which allowed me to register my own Consultancy Company.

I soon got involved in several projects arranging also the financing on ‘Soft-Loan’ and even ‘Grant’ basis offering the country therefore the best possible conditions.
Everything seemed to be going well since I also had been able to raise the interest of some leading industrial groups which were even willing to enter as partners and invest their own money in Kenya.

But most of my efforts got derailed by the cynical cousin of the New Head of State, Daniel T. arap Moi, succeeding the first President, Jomo Kenyatta, who had died in August 1978.

The Hon. Nicholas K.A. Biwott ………

Biwott was a very short, militarily clean-shaven punk. He wore nothing but designer outfits. His pricey suits were imported from Rome or Paris. His elegant shoes were always handmade – mostly in England.

His eyes – like a vivious cobra’s – were small. They were set deep in their sockets, causing him to squint whenever he looked at something. His wiggly ears were like two disappearing blobs on both sides of his head. They were tiny and made him look more comical than he dared to admit.

He cherished power – worshipped money.

And because he had both, he had developed into one of the most ruthless powerbrokers Kenya had ever known.

Add to that the fact that he was a master-manipulator of the Head of State – and you get a scary monster. An intensely evil creature.

Nothing and nobody stood in his way.

Anything he schemed had to happen and whoever blocked it, was promptly bumped off.
With impunity.

And like a wilderness ogre, he left a trail of stench wherever he passed. His filthy fingerprints were on every scandalous deal entered into by the State.

In fact, the way things had evolved in the Second Republic, he had practically become the State. He made it to be known that he was the Total Man. The Head of State’s eyes and ears.

He destroyed political opponents with a simple phone call. He appointed friends and cronies in every significant position in the Government.

And whenever anybody threatened his influence and power – or his wealth and prestige – he immediately hired hit-men to kill that person.

That was his MO.

But fifteen years ago, he killed a special man - one of my dearest friends: the Hon. Dr. Robert Ouko, EGH, MP - Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Because of the brutal nature of his murder and because I had promised him that I would name his killers should he die, I had made it my personal mission to one day tell the world who killed him and why …..

That one day was now only a week away.

A Parliamentary Select Committee was sitting in Nairobi, the Kenyan Capital. It was instituted by an Act of Parliament which gave its 12-members-team, led by the dramatic member from Kisumu Town-East, the power to investigate Dr. Ouko’s murder …… and to figure out what his killer/s expected to accomplish by it.

In fact, just within the last couple of hours, I had received an official Summon via the Kenyan Embassy in Paris to appear before the Committee.

So as I sat on my terrace, my body numb, I looked at the Summon again. Nairobi ? Parliament Building? How safe was it to got to that place? Was the fact be reassuring that the regime had changed and Biwott was not as powerful as he once had been ?

Knowing Biwott, I doubted that this was the case …….

But then I also thought about Bob - the Hon. Dr. Robert Ouko. My dearest and most trusted friend. A devoted husband and father. A morally upright man. A true Statesman …..

Was I finally be able to keep my word to name his killer/s ? Say why he was killed ? Or was I going to be too scared to go ?

**********

Sandra was now grown and married. She was not only my daughter, but had become over the last years also a true friend.

As I sat on my terrace sipping a cold drink, still holding the Committee’s Summon in my hand, my mind went back to the time Sandra was born.

At that time everything in my life was so simple. I had married Frederik, a well-known Psychologist, whose grandfather was one of the founders of the Swiss Labour Part. Also Frederik had then entered politics. We lived in a spacious house and led an active social life. Everybody envied me.

Since we still used to spend most of our holidays in Kenya, Sandra had been conceived while being in Malindi – so we decided to also give her a Kiswahili-name – so her full name was then Sandra Malaika.

All of the sudden my phone rang. “Hello?”

“It’s me, Mami.”

“Sandra?”

Sandra must have detected fear in my voice because she immediately asked, “What’s wrong, Mami ?”

I hesitated. There was a lot wrong. In fact, everything was wrong. But deciding that I had to calm my nerves before talking to my daughter, I said, “Look, Sandra, I’ll call you right back.”

At her home in Switzerland, Sandra knew immediately that something was gravely wrong. Her mother’s tone did not sound right. What was going on?

She had to find out. She did not want to wait, so she immediately dialed my number again, “Mami, tell me what is going on….”

Hearing my daughter’s pleading voice, I decided to come straight to the point, “The problem is that I have been summoned to testify before the Parliamentary Select Committee.”

“What does this mean?”

“Remember, I told you about a Committee the Kenyan Parliament voted into existence more than one year ago. The new Government had promised this new investigation into the death of Dr. Robert Ouko to the Kenyan People before the last General Elections. And they want me to appear before it …..”

“Where – again in London?”

“No – this time they want me to come to Nairobi – and that’s the problem…..”

Sandra’s body stiffened. “Nairobi?” All the memories of how things had gone wrong in Nairobi came rushing back to her:

She remembered how twice her mother had escaped death in that city. How some crazed goon called Nicholas Biwott had threatened her, insulted her, sneered at her, and even thrown her business associates out of the country.
Why was Mami even thinking of going back there?

Reading Sandra’s mind, I said, “Sweetheart, I know Nairobi is dangerous. I know Biwott will come after me …… but I have to go.”

“I am sorry, Mami, I cannot agree. Those fools have blocked your appearance at any previous investigative body. Besides, you have provided Supt. Troon a lot of information and he has used it to point them right into the direction of Dr. Ouko’s killers. He practically told them who did it and how…. How stupid are they ? Can’t they still not figure it out themselves?”

“You are upset and I understand,” I told my daughter, “ but there is something that has never been said at any previous investigation.”

Sandra’s jaw dropped. “What?”

“Nobody has ever said the real reasons why Dr. Ouko was killed. And who gave the final instructions….”

“Then what have they been doing all this time?”

When I did not reply to this question, my daughter continued, “Mami, I know there has been a former Inquiry and another Commission. If all those witnesses did not talk fearing they could join the list of others who have died because they knew too much, what on earth makes you think you will be able to tell this new Committee anything - and then come out alive ? And especially in Nairobi of all places ?”
I exhaled sharply – I knew, Sandra was right. It was extremely dangerous to go back to Nairobi.

Besides, I knew that this Summon had only been issued after a lot of pressure by my former Kenyan lawyer who was now the Vice-Chairman of this Committee.

He had informed that certain political powerful forces had opposed my appearance and it had been expressly stipulated that I could not disclose anything private. So Sandra may be right - what was the point of going there?

“Mami, tell me you won’t go,” Sandra pleaded, “You are my best friend, the only person I can turn to whenever there is a crisis in my life ….. or I need counseling ….. or I want a shoulder to cry on. If anything happens to you ….”

Hearing her sorrow and fear, I told her, “ Nothing will happen - I will be fine and I promise to take good care of myself.”

“But why, Mami, why are you so settled to go?”

I took a deep breath and bringing resolve to my voice, I quietly said, “ Because I made a promise a long time ago – a promise which I have to fulfill – a promise to Dr. Ouko ………”

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