Friday, August 1, 2008



August 1, 2008
By Amos Kareithi
The Standard

Twenty-six years after he court martialled mutinous Kenya Air Force soldiers, Maj-Gen (Rtd) Joseph Mbyati Musomba has spoken of the part he played.

Musomba was the chairman of the court martial that tried the rebel soldiers.

He says the court martial sentenced at least 300 soldiers to jail terms ranging between six months and 20 years.

Musomba told The Standard he was picked as the chairman due to his senior rank as the one in charge of the Western Command, covering troops from Gilgil to the Kenya-Uganda border.


He had also played a critical role in securing the then President Moi to Nairobi from Nakuru on the fateful day.

"I was among the senior military officers to meet President Moi in Nakuru, when he was told we had quashed the coup. Moi appeared cool, the crisis of the day did not show on his face as we arranged an elaborate security convoy for him," the retired Maj-Gen says.

After the coup was suppressed, Musomba was put in charge of grilling hundreds of the airmen to establish whether they had participated in the coup.

After his assessment, he says, he established that "more than three quarters of the Air Force did not know about the coup. A few elements misled their colleagues".

The court martial at Lang’ata barracks was tense and complicated by emerging tough lawyers.


Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara, who was one of the lawyers, recalls his tribulations as he defended some of the suspected coup plotters.

"I was fresh from the University of Nairobi, when I presented myself at Lang’ata barracks, I was blocked. Later, I was frogmarched inside the facility, which was under heavy guard," he recalls.

When he finally entered the courtroom, Imanyara was even more shocked.

His father, Lt Col Imanyara Imathiu, was sitting at the panel.

"I protested bitterly because I sensed the Government wanted to intimidate me through my father. I opposed the manoeuvres for I feared that if I withdrew, my client, Bramwel Injemi Njereman would never get justice," Imanyara says.

Ultimately, his client Corporal Njereman, an armaments technician, was sentenced to hang.

Musomba too, recalls how he was approached by a senior prosecutor who wanted him to delay pronouncing sentences of the soldiers he was trying until "higher authorities," okayed the move.

To date Musomba says he cannot understand why the coup was not thwarted before it occurred.

"After investigations, we learnt the Government was warned, when the plotters started arming themselves. Nothing was done. I do not know why," he says.

He feels the coup attempt could have been avoided if the Government addressed complaints of the junior Air Force soldiers.

"They had grievances. Hezekiah Ochuka was a very bright soldier. He was good at mobilising. That is why he almost succeeded in toppling the Government," he says.

On his role in crashing the mutiny, he took control of the city and was involved in the mopping up of the rebels.

"I took control of the army, the GSU and the police and the AP to conduct the mop up of the rebel elements of the Kenya Air force," he says.

Within four days, Musomba recalls how the Air Force was operational and everything returned to normal.

Musomba says the mop up continued for a week and was shocked when the senior military command decided to rename the airmen ‘82 Air Force.