Friday, August 01, 2008


We are commemorating the 26th year since the awful '82 Coup, when Kenya Airforce soldiers were tricked in mutiny to overthrow the government of then President Moi and failed,

The air force troops apparently took over the KBC TV and radio station and a few other strategic installations in the early hours of Sunday morning August 1st 1982, before the Kenya Army support battalion stormed into the city centre and recaptured the installations with heavy casualties, mainly from the air force side.

The attempt was quickly suppressed by Loyalist forces led by the Army, led by Army commander, Rtd Chief of General staff, Mahmud mohamed, the General Service Unit (GSU) — paramilitary wing of the police — and later the regular police, but not without civilian casualties.

After the coup attempt, the entire Kenyan airforce was disbanded. Twelve people, including Ochuka, were sentenced to death, and over 900 were jailed. Many air force soldiers fled, stripped their uniform and hid by mixing with ordinary civilians.

The army hunted them down for days. It is said that a section of the air force that had taken control cheered when they saw the army arriving in town, since they had been made to believe that the entire armed forces were supporting the attempted coup. They were taken completely by surprise when their would-be accomplices opened fire instead, killing many of them.

It is said that, Moi was at his Kabarak farm when the attempted coup happened and after it was defeated, was brought back into the city by a well armed army escort in an operation code named Operation Maji Machafu (swahili for dirty water).

There is a story that did the rounds to the effect that he was brought back inside a military tank. He appeared live on KBC TV (then called Voice of Kenya – VOK). He was visisbly shocked but thanked all the security forces. Mr Leonard Mambo Mbotela was forced by the soldiers to announce the coup on radio at gunpoint. He was flanked by the then Kenya Army commander, Rtd Mahmoud Mohammed and the then police commissioner Ben Gethi.

The paranoid Moi who emerged after the events of that August day, was a very different man from the Moi Kenyans had known in the past. From then on, all political opponents and enemies, real or imagined were dealt with ruthlessly. The dreaded Mwakenya purge where many innocent Kenyans suffered in torture chambers at Nyayo house on suspicion of being dissidents was to follow, peaking in 1985/86.

On that fateful day, Nairobi was reduced to ruins as the army mopped the city for the rebel soldiers.

From a close perspective, here a Kenyan airforce somali soldier captured on the ventful day gives you an insights into what transpired between the Kenya Army, headed by Former Rtd General, Mahmood mohammed and the Kenya airforce, later renamed 82 Airforce.

Former Senior Private Ibrahim Ali Hassan, a Kenya Air Force driver who ferried the first group of mutineers to the Voice of Kenya (VoK), the predecessor of KBC, has a lot to reveal. He says, KAF soldiers were following orders although most soldiers who took part were not informed of what they were getting into.

Hassan, Kenya Airforce No. 0721834, currently living in Daadab, Lagdera District, where he whiles away time in destitution, waiting for compensation from the Government for what he says was "wrongful dismissal" says, "We thought we were obeying lawful orders that morning when we were told to dress up and take arms to defend the Government," said the forlorn looking man.

He says most of the soldiers who armed themselves and took to the streets on that fateful Sunday morning did not even know the coup mastermind, Senior Sergeant Hezekiah Ochuka, well. He told the court martial that he believed then that the Government was under attack and that they were being called out to defend it.

"More than three quarters did not know about the coup. A few elements misled their colleagues," says the retired Army man.

Here is his story

Details of the bloody attempted coup of 1982 are still classified information. The exact body count was never even given. What followed was a different Moi keen on crushing all opposition, real or imagined. In retrospect the attempted coup was definitely one of the events that helped drive the country more and more off track.