Long wait for kin to ex-Air Force officer death certificates

Kamiti Maximum Prison. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The mother of Walter Odira, a former Air Force corporal hanged over the failed 1982 coup will wait longer to get her son’s death and service certificates.

For 40 years since her son was hanged, Yunia Ogola has been seeking the crucial documents and other belongings held by the military.

When no answers were forthcoming, she sued the Attorney General, the Registrar of the Judiciary and the Prisons Commissioner. In court papers, Ogola said she wanted closure after her son was hanged and hoped to get his service certificate.

At the same time, she prayed that Kenya Prisons Service gives her a certificate from Kamiti Maximum Prison, where Odira was hanged after he lost an appeal of a court-martial held at Lang’ata barracks and was condemned to death by hanging.

He was tried and sentenced alongside Hezekiah Ochuka for suspicion of involvement in the failed August 1, 1982 Coup d’état.

Court records show he was hanged at Kamiti Maximum Security Prisons in 1985 or thereabout.

Ogola also wanted the Judiciary to furnish her with information on the sentence handed her son. However, the court has shut the doors after finding that she did not prove when and how she requested for the information.

High Court judge Hedwig Ong’undi said the case was premature.

“For the respondents to be accused of denying the petitioner the right to access information, there had to be evidence to show that the information was requested for and how the request was made. There must also be evidence of the denial of the said right.”

Ong’undi made the ruling on February 3.

In the case, Odira’s mother claimed that prior to her son’s death, he was detained, tortured and denied his constitutional rights.

Odira was sentenced to death by the military court on December 6, 1982. He filed an appeal before the High Court in Nairobi. It was heard by two judges, who dismissed it and confirmed the sentence on November 22, 1983.

According to Ogola, the military still holds onto his belongings. She urged the court to order the registrar of the High Court to release a certificate declaring that a death sentence had been passed.

Ogola also sought evidence that judges communicated to the president that her son was hanged and proof that he was sent to the gallows in Kamiti. 

“The respondents did not give her any reason for their refusal to give her the information requested for, thus violating Article 10 of the Constitution,” argued Ogola.

She claimed the government gave contradicting answers to her claims before court. According to her, although the AG said she had not exhausted the channels to get the answers, he said the information sought was unavailable.

The AG opposed the case.