When a hot political fire rages, it consumes all in its path, and when the embers finally die off, they leave scarred victims and cold impotent ash.
When a by-election was conducted in Gem Constituency in Siaya in 1983, all the electorate wanted was to elect a new leader they hoped would best champion their cause and steer development in the region.
Unpredictably, flamboyant Nairobi businessman, Aggrey Otieno Ambala (pictured) who had floored Isack Omolo Okero too had been shown the door in the snap by-election. The new kid of the block was Horace Ongili Owiti.
The jubilation in Gem soon turned into tears when on May 27, 1985, armed gangsters invaded Owiti’s home in Siaya. They attacked the MP with machetes and batons, stabbed him and dragged his lifeless body into a nearby maize plantation. They did not steal anything. His car, parked outside the house, was intact.
The murder was a culmination of a series of attacks on the MP who had never known peace from the time he was elected. Soon after the murder, the spotlight turned to Ambala who was a prime suspect.
The former MP had a penchant for controversy and had been linked to the death of a popular musician Juma Toto and the arrest and jailing of a soccer player over a plate of chips. When his first wife, Perez died the politician had caused a storm by suing a city hospital.
Ambala was arrested in connection with Ongili’s death and locked up at Kodiaga prison. On June 8, 1985, Ambala collapsed in his cell and died. Even before an autopsy had been conducted the police ruled out foul play.
Nevertheless, when an autopsy was conducted, the police pathologist concluded that Ambala had died of heart attack. The pathologist too died a few hours after performing the postmortem when the plane flying him to Nairobi crashed in Ngong.
There were claims of witchcraft for during the trial a sister of one of the suspects was caught trying to smuggle some charms to the suspect. She was charged with trafficking charms to a suspect but the state later withdrew the case.
Ultimately, two suspects, Jeckonia Wangulu Okumu and Micheal Ouma Odongo were sentenced to death which was prescribed to be political but were later acquitted on appeal by judges J O Nyarangi, Evans Gicheru and Richard Kwach who criticised the judgment as “hopeless and very bad."
Today, the puzzle of who killed Owiti and what killed Ambala still persist. Questions still linger as to whether Ambala was paying a price for crossing the path of powerful political foes.