By Jerry Okungu
May 1, 2013
Kenya’s 11th parliament has lived to its reputation. It has claimed its first victim in Senator Mutula Kilonzo of Makueni early in the first month of its existence.
This tradition of losing elected leaders under mysterious circumstances has dogged Kenya’s august house since 1963.
In December 1964, Senator Oruko MackAsembo died in a freak accident after attending the first Jamhuri celebrations. A year later, the 1st parliament had to claim the life of Pio Gama Pinto through an assassin’s bullet in front of his doorstep in Parklands area of Nairobi. To date, the killers of Pinto have never been found.
Four years later, the 1st parliament had to claim the life of Cabinet Minister Argwings Kodhek of Gem constituency again in a freak accident in Nairobi’s present Kodhek Road in Hurlingham. Six months after the demise of Kodhek, Tom Mboya was shot dead in broad day light in the present Moi Avenue bringing to a total of four deaths in the first parliament.
Tom Mboya was never to die alone, for three months after his burial in Rusinga Island; a visit to Kisumu by President Jomo Kenyatta resulted in the massacre of several rioters who were protesting against the murder of Tom Mboya.
The second parliament was never to be different. In the third month of its life, JM Kariuki, the MP for Nyandarua was found brutally murdered in Ngong Hills in the outskirts of Nairobi. He had just won his seat in a landslide during the December 1974 general elections. The same parliament claimed the life of George Morara soon after he had demanded to know why Tom Mboya was assassinated. He died on a road accident between Kisumu and Kakamega in 1970. It was the same year that a cabinet minister, Ronald Ngala from the Coast met his death in Nairobi-Mombasa Road after being attacked by mysterious bees in his car. Before that parliament, assistant minister Ichiya Echakara met his death one night near Carnivore Restaurant allegedly in the company of a Ugandan woman
The third parliament started with lots of upheavals under Daniel arap Moi. Although no elected MP died between 1979 when Moi was properly elected for his first term, three years later, the attempted coup by the Kenya Air Force caused the lives of many soldiers and civilians in brief encounters between rebel soldiers and loyalists. In the aftermath of the civil strife, Moi used the opportunity to execute a number of those he thought led the coup against his government.
The fourth parliament between 1983 and 1988 had to claim the life of Gem MP, Hon Horace Owiti Ongili in a grisly murder in his rural home in Gem. Otieno Ambala who had run against him and was alleged to have planned Ongili’s murder had to also die mysteriously in his prison cell at Kodiaga prison.
The fifth parliament was another big one. Two years after the 1988 elections, Dr. Robert Ouko was found brutally murdered in Got Alila near his Koru home in Nyanza Province. His death, like that of JM Kariuki, Hon Ongili, Pio Gama Pinto and Tom Mboya was never resolved.
There seems to have been a lull in violent political assassinations during the sixth parliament that ran between 1992 and 1997. This could have been due to a return to multiparty politics that made it difficult for KANU regime to carry out such criminal activities at will. The same lull had to continue during the seventh parliament between 1997 and 2002 during Moi’s last term as president. It was also in this era when Kenyans began to enjoy expanded political space and freedom of opinion and expression. However, some politically related killings took place in parts of Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and Coast provinces in the run up to the 1992 and 1997 elections in zones that were considered KANU strongholds. These killings were also investigated without any meaningful results given to the public.
However, the 9th parliament became more tragic than most of them all. Just before we had elections in December 2002, Mwai Kibaki, the presidential candidate had one of the worst tragic accidents that dogged him for the better part of his ten year rule.
Just weeks into his presidency, an air crash at Moody Awori’s home claimed the life of one Cabinet Minister while those of two others hanged in the balance in a Nairobi hospital for weeks.
Weeks later, another Cabinet Minister from Masailand succumbed to his death in a South African Hospital to be followed by Vice President Kijana Wamalwa’s demise in August 2003.
However the worst disaster for the 9th parliament was yet to come when in 2006 a military aircraft on a peace mission crashed in Marsabit killed two assistant ministers, four MPs and eight other security personnel. Among the dead was Hon Bonaya Godana, former Foreign Affairs Minister in Moi’s last regime.
Around the same time, Prof. Odhiambo Mbai, the university don who was the lead devolution expert at the Bomas Constitutional Conference was gunned down in his living room in broad day light along Ngong Road. Like the others before him, his killers have never been found.
The 10th parliament had its fair share of tragic deaths. Apart from the 1500 innocent Kenyans killed in the 2008 post election riots, one MP, Mugabe Were was gunned down in his home in Nairobi just a few days after being declared elected MP for Embakasi in January 2008 as another MP elect, Arap Too was gunned down in broad daylight in the company of a female police officer. The same early 2008 also claimed the lives of Cabinet Minister Kipkalias Kones and Assistant Minister Lorna Laboso as they travelled to a function in Kericho one morning.
Other MPs who have lost their lives as sitting members of parliament in the august house were George Captain of Kwanza constituency in 2002, Enock Magara from Kisii and Dr. Masinde of Mathare constituency in Nairobi.
Then towards the end of the 10th parliament in 2012, Cabinet Minister George Saitoti and his assistant Orwa Ojode together with two police pilots and body guards perished in an air crash in Ngong Hills on their way to Ojode’s home in Ndhiwa
Now that Mutula Kilonzo is lying dead under mysterious circumstances, it remains to be seen if the jinx of the Kenyan parliament will come to an end and whether the security agencies will conclusively unravel the mystery surrounding the senator’s death.