Saturday, February 13, 2010



February 12 2010


At the time of our father’s death, we were in school. His eldest three children were in college. Ken (22) studying chemical engineering and Susan (20) studying computer science, both in the USA, and Winnie (19) studying commerce at the University of Nairobi’s Lower Kabete campus.

Lillian (18) had just completed her A-level exams and the younger three children Carol (15), Andrew (13) and Charles (11) were in Form 3, Std 8 and Std 6 respectively.

Dr Ouko had just returned from a visit from the US where he had visited both Ken and Susan. On the evening before he died, he called his Nairobi home from Koru asking for their mother.

That was the last that was heard of him before the news of his death broke. The younger children were called out of class when the news broke and we in Nairobi were suddenly engulfed in a wave of both personal and public grief.

Ken and Susan joined us a few days later from the US but there was not much conversation amongst us. It was too much to take in. After the funeral, the younger three children were moved from their day schools into the more sheltered life of boarding school outside Nairobi. The rest of us carried on with our lives as best as we could.

What kept us going were the solid and loving memories of our father, some of which include his affectionate hugs and kisses, his warm and big smile and his big belly laugh. He shared his love of books, music, travel and soccer with us. Football matches were taped while he was away and he enjoyed gathering us together to watch them.

He told us good stories about the different places he travelled, making faraway places come alive and he often took us on long discovery drives. His insatiable appetite for books and his love of words was passed on to us and we all read books. He was a really good teacher, was the person to ask for help with homework and an easy person to talk to.

He had an eye and ear for detail, out of which derived his love of order, tidiness and impeccable style. He is still remembered for his classic Old Spice cologne scent and his trademark half moon glasses.

His busy schedule meant that he missed a lot of the day-to-day details of our growing up. However, when he was with us, he made us feel special and was an imposing presence who imparted on us the quality and strength of his character.

This was a sense of curiosity about the world and people, a determination to accomplish any goal, a view of education as a life-long process and the virtue of service and kindness to others.

He taught us to believe in ourselves and to nurture the gifts God gave us — words we took for granted while he was alive, but as adults they have inspired us to reach greater heights and to overcome self-doubt. He observed us carefully as children and encouraged us in our unique interests.

Because we were all still young when he died, the gap that he left felt very huge when he was not there to witness our achievements and key life events like prize-giving days at school, university graduations and weddings.

We think about and miss all the conversations, debates, consultations and good company we would have had as adults. We are also saddened that he never got to know our husbands/wives and his grandchildren. Charlie and Andrew both grew up into their teenage years and adulthood without a father, and it has fundamentally affected who they are today.

However, we have all stretched and grown to try and fill the void he left. We have witnessed the strength of our mother and how she has been able to play both roles in parenting and shepherding the family through many turbulent years. We know he would be very proud of all of us, especially my mom.

Because of his early encouragement and support, his children have all been able to lead productive lives.

LILIAN OUKO-MUSILA, who was 18 when her father was killed captures in her own words the grief that engulfed the family and the memories of a loving father that kept them going in darkest of times.

Ken is an engineer, a computer consultant and a pilot married to Delia Wasao with one daughter. Susan is an IT consultant in Atlanta, Georgia, married to Bob Mwaura with two daughters and one son. Winnie is a finance and strategy consultant married to Francis Ogutu, with two sons.

Lillian is a research scientist married to Francis Musila with a son and daughter. Carol is a risk and compliance manager in the insurance industry married to Ron Misiko with one son, Andrew is a web developer and IT consultant and Charles is a mechanical engineer.

The circumstances of his death shocked us but the love and support of family and the grace of God have allowed us to achieve what we have today. We have come to terms with the fact that there are things that will never be understood.

We have found peace and let go of that anger and disappointment knowing that justice will be served; whether in this life or the next. However, it is sad that this kind of injustice continues to this day.

We realise that countless other Kenyans go through the same experience with much less acknowledgement of their personal loss and trauma. Senseless and unresolved killing makes grief much more tragic and can breed anger, hatred and violence. To redeem tragedy, we must all fight for a just society and not keep silent about injustices in our midst but more than that, we must propagate good.

Some people thought they had destroyed Robert Ouko’s legacy in his death, but it continues to live on in the hearts of his children and in the lives of those he touched.

Role model

We would like Dr Ouko to be remembered by his nation for his love of people, his wisdom, intelligence, generosity and gentleness. To be known as a loving father, devoted husband, a man proud of his country.

A man who was principled, self-driven and motivated. We can think of no greater role model so we strive to epitomise his values in our lives and in the community. We hope to entrench that legacy to last beyond those who personally knew him through the initiative of a community library and resource centre in his home town in Koru and through public lectures in his name in different forums around the country.