BY DAVID OCHAMI
Recently declassified intelligence documents confirm the long held assumption that Ugandan agents planted the bomb that killed former Minister for Agriculture Bruce Mackenzie during President Jomo Kenyatta’s era.
The secret documents obtained by The Standard also reveal the intrigues that characterised the fickle relations between Kenya and her neighbours.
Mackenzie was for a long time the only white minister in post-independent Kenya. His sudden death in a mysterious plane crash above Ngong as he flew from Entebbe, Uganda, remains unsolved since investigations, which Kenya’s top security and intelligence commanders promised never took place.
The Standard has obtained declassified information, which, however, fails to explain the motive for Mackenzie’s assassination that occurred at a time of growing polarisation within Kenyatta’s inner-circle and animosity between Kenyatta and Uganda’s then leader Iddi Amin.
Some accounts indicate Mackenzie was an intelligence agent for several nations.
Regarding Mackenzie, the documents allege unknown agents planted the time bomb that killed him as he tried to land near Wilson Airport in Nairobi from Uganda.
An intelligence brief written on May 24, 1978, about three months before Kenyatta’s death declares that the aircraft Mackenzie used from Entebbe had "a time bomb" and the plane last made contact with the control tower at Wilson Airport 17 minutes before the "explosion in mid air."
According to Kenya’s intelligence at that time, Mombasa resident Shabudi Gulam Hussein Fazal Dirgil also died after a timebomb was planted under his car seat in the coastal city two days after Mackenzie’s death. Another bomb was discovered at St Mary’s School in Nairobi on May 26, 1978, but exploded without killing anyone.
The report indicates Mackenzie flew from Entebbe at 16.19 hours on May 24, 1978, and was due to land in Nairobi at 18.15 hours.
The pilot, Paul Lennox, the papers allege, contacted aviation authorities in Kenya at 16.27 hours and "then again at 17.30 hours and the last contact made with Wilson Airport Tower was at 17.58 hours."
Besides the pilot and former minister, two men identified as Keith Savage and Gavin Whitelaw were also on the ill-fated plane, according to the report.
The documents from secret memos and Intelligence briefs during the last years of the Kenyatta and early period of the Moi administration, also reveal the state of paranoia and misinformation that gripped Kenya’s relations with most of her neighbours namely Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and the larger Sudan.
Of particular interest is the state of suspicion between Kenya and Somalia, which she accused of fanning separatism in North Eastern Province, recruiting Kenyans into its armed forces and supplying Kenyan Somali dissidents with its passports.
The Somalia Embassy is also accused of passing false Intelligence to the Kenya government that agents of the former Soviet Union were plotting against Kenyan authorities to fan animosity with Ethiopia, Kenya’s only reliable ally since Independence, which then was allied to the Soviet Union.
Tanzania, under Nyerere, is accused in the papers of being "determined to isolate Kenya" politically and economically by shutting its border with Kenya because of the unresolved issue of sharing assets from the defunct East Africa Community and also of planting a "leftist and pro-Tanzania " government in Kampala after invading to depose Iddi Amin.
Somalia and Uganda are also accused of plotting to isolate Kenya.
"Tanzania is determined to isolate Kenya and has recently organised two meetings at which Kenya was excluded to discuss an economic alliance to embrace countries in the Central, Eastern and Southern Africa..." says a July 27, 1979, memo of the now defunct Kenya Security Committee (KSC) chaired by then Vice President Mwai Kibaki.
Until the mid 1980s, the KSC, which was chaired by the VP, was the leading security/military intelligence organ of the State. It included heads of the navy, air force and infantry army, director of civilian and military intelligence, Commissioner of Police and permanent secretaries in the ministries of Home Affairs, Internal Security, Office of the President and Information.
The team met regularly to review key security issues of the time.
Following Amin’s defeat, "Kenya was concerned about the activities of Tanzania in Uganda where she is reported to have a resident minister," according to the secret memo that also accused the Ugandan military of spending most of Kenyan post-Amin reconstruction money on beer.
The KSC meeting of June 29, 1979, was more candid about Nyerere’s efforts to force his way in Uganda and against Kenya through hostile propaganda.
The recently declassified documents show that the Kenya government believed Nyerere kidnapped and forced shortlived Uganda President Yusuf Lule to resign in 1979.
The dossier alleges Lule, a former university professor, was "forced to resign" after being held under ‘arrest’ at Nyerere’s official residence in Dar es Salaam.
It says in part, "President Lule had been forced to resign and had been replaced by (Godfrey) Binaisa.
Lule was staying at State House in Dar es Salaam, reportedly under ‘arrest’ until he agreed to sign documents recognising Binaisa as the new President (of Uganda)."
Lule was removed from office after three months in power following the invasion of Uganda by Tanzania and Ugandan rebel forces deployed by the Tanzanian former leader to overthrow the late Ugandan despot Idi Amin Dada.
Independent scholars have argued that Nyerere removed Lule because he wanted a stooge that would pave the way for a return of former President Milton Obote, a Nyerere ally, deposed by Amin in 1971.
Meanwhile, a KSC meeting on March 2, 1979, made a decision to remove all Ugandan refugees in Kenya after determining their presence, especially in Western Kenya was a security threat to Kenya, although Amin was still in power.
Anti-Amin forces opposed the decision to send the refugees away but KSC declared that if any expelled Ugandans returned to Kenya "they would be handed over to Amin.
On that day, the committee accused Nyerere of occupying Uganda with forces and rejecting a ceasefire and mediation by the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
According to a document dated June 29, 1979, Tanzania, which was then trying to impose former President Obote to replace Amin and Binaisa, informed Kenyan authorities that its border with Kenya that were shut in 1977 would remain so, for at least three years.
Tanzania allegedly accused Kenya of blocking air-traffic between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam while Kenya counter-accused it of refusing to sign a Bilateral Trade Agreement and compelling landlocked Uganda not to use Kenyan ports.
The June 29, 1979, KSC meeting resolved to mount propaganda campaign against the country after accusing Tanzania and Ugandan journalists, agents and proxies of dominating the Kenyan media scene in a secret memo dated June 29, 1976.