The ‘ 82 Coup d’etat

Sunday , 1st August , 1982 remains glued in the Kenyan history as the darkest moment .It is the day the Air wing of the Forces tried to topple the country’s leadership.

So exactly what happened , how did it begin , the course , the end and the aftermath and how did it influence the political systems in the country ?

To start with , it was a common occurance for governments vto be overthrown by the military and individuals in this part of the world at that time .Our neighbour , Uganda , had gone through cycles of army coups.The story was the same in Sudan , Ethiopia , Egypt , Nigeria , Congo Brazzaville , Congo Kinshasha , Morroco , Algeria , Tunisia and many other African countries .

That was not the first coup attempt in Kenya, eight years earlier there had been a pousch , but it too was unsuccessful , in fact it went unnoticed.

So where did the coup idea come from?

Hezekiah Ochuka , the master mine of the coup ,had been obsessed with becoming a president of Kenya .Born 1953 , in Nyakach , Kisumu , was a senior private , the second rank in the army , and is said to be very vocal .

It is still unclear of where the idea originated from , however, what is known is that there was a political hand to the putsch. Various politicians were believed to have been behind the plot to the tune of funding it.

During the trials at the court martial after the coup , the name Oginga Odinga and Raila Oding mushroomed repeatedly. Odinga Senior was subsequently put under house arrest and the younger Odinga detained for several years .

At around February , 1982 , Sergeant Pancras Oteyo of the Kenya Air Force was approached by the army’s mess leader , Obuon who initiated a conversation on how badly the nation required redemption from the dettoriating leadership under President Moi .Obuon went further to reveal to Oteyo that he had a backing from certain politicians and university lecturers , especially from the Lake Region. He was successful in convincing Oteyo to join him in his plan to redeem the country from the hands of what he termed as dictatorial rulers.

It is Oteyo who brought Ochuka into the plan , knowing well his obsession with power .Oteyo met Ochuka at his Embakasi base and it didn’t require much effort to convince Ochuka. The zeal by which Ochuka took to the plan even surprised his partners .Being a Senior Private , he was just to recruit his fellow young soldiers to the plan but not to lead the process , however, just in a few weeks , Ochuka had managed to push off the earlier master mines , that being Oteyo and Obuon and became the leader of the process .The trio formed the Redemption Council in which Ochuka fought his way to Chairmanship. However , this brought a tussle between Obuon and Ochuka .Obuon was unhappy with the apparent Ochuka’s growth , however Oteyo cooled down the temperatures by promising Obuon that once they seize power , they will kill Ochuka.

Ochuka’s determination and spirited nature saw him being trusted more by the financiers than Obuon who had started the agenda. This animosity almost crumbled the plans .

Within a few months into the plan , Ochuka had managed to recruit more than 900 soldiers .He also managed to steal communication equipment from the base at Embakasi , he then set his base along Ngong road in the outskirts of the city.

A few weeks to the day , a meeting was held at a football ground in Umoja Estate where Ochuka informed the attendees that he was well prepared and had support of Uganda , Tanzania and Sudan militaries.He went further to state that USSR would send a warship in case their plans failed .However , all this information was made up to convince his recruits to take up on this deadly risk

It is still unclear whether the President got an hint of the impending putsch. However , this school of thought can’t be believed easily because no leader would see his government being tested.

Now what happened on the day?

At 3 AM , the Eastleigh Airbus had fallen into the hands of the rebels, by 4 AM , the nearby Embakasi Base was also at its knees , by 6 AM , Ochuka and Oteyo , raided the Voice of Kenya , now KBC , radio station and announced that the military had overthrown the regime.

Soon after , melee and chaos ruled the capital city with massive looting spree in various places .Shooting aimlessly was also experienced and its largely believed that at that point in time , Ochuka had successfully overthrown the government and was the one running the country .The success only lasted a few hours .

In the intended plan , fighter jets from Laikipia Airbase would bomb the State House and capture various leaders .The plan was led by Corporal Paul Njereman who forced three pilots at gunpoint to fly and crush the capital. However , the pilots threw the bombs at Mt Kenya Forest and returned to Laikipia .This dealt a blow to the rebels. The rebels had also joined the civilians in looting and drinking spree as a way to celebrate the success .It was this blunder that caused them huge loss . As they waited for the jets from Laikipia , loyal forces were staging a fightback .

The Chief of General Staff , Mahmoud Mohammed quickly organized the GSU , the Police and the loyal forces hence suppressed the putsch .They captured the rebels and took control of the city .At this fightback , more than 2000 people , both the civilians and the military were killed.

By 6 PM on that day , the coup had gone down and the authorities and recovered .The poor organization and communication among the rebels are to blame for their unsuccessful quest .

The chief rebel , Hezekiah Ochuka flew to Tanzania.

Several soldiers were captured , tried and found guilty .Ochuka was repatriated back and was hanged .It is believed that he was the last person who went through capital offence punishment and was buried at the Kamiti Maximum Prison in 1987.Several politicians were also detained , and some others sought asylum in various parts of the world.

After the coup , Moi changed his style of leadership adopting a radical approach to the opposition .

The putsch remains the darkest moment in the Kenyan history.


By Lincoln Oyugi

Just as Isaac Newton died a virgin, I'll die a writer!

1 comment

  1. I read this article and am so happy in the way you summarized the whole thing. Am a great fan of history and well written literature. You my favorite I must say.


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