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Mystery of weapons near State House in Charles Njonjo inquiry

KENYA @ 50
By By Waweru Mugo | November 13th 2013

By Waweru Mugo

NAIROBI, KENYA: When a Judicial Commission was set up to investigate former Constitutional Affairs Minister Charles Njonjo in 1983, one of its immediate tasks was to investigate a cache of weapons found in a house on Lenana Road.

Njonjo had fallen out of favour and was branded a traitor amid accusations he planned to overthrow President Moi’s government in August 1982. He was also alleged to have been party to the activities of a man named Andrew Mungai Muthemba, who was tried in independent Kenya’s first treason case. Prosecutors claimed Muthemba, a relative of Njonjo, had tried to acquire weapons illegally through the Kenya Air Force. He was acquitted.

Njonjo denied all the allegations against him. However, he baffled the commission when he declined to be cross-examined by his lawyers, a critical process in which accused persons can tear evidence tabled against them apart.

 Home in question

Njonjo instead thanked Moi for setting up the commission, saying it was a sign of Kenya’s progress. But he said how  very sorry he was that the proceedings became necessary.

The weapons were found at a home owned by a family known as the Haryantos. The Haryantos had first visited Kenya in the 1960s on a hunting trip, fell in love and visited regularly. The head of the family was a man named Yani Haryanto, who was first locally known as Lim Poo Hin before changing his name. The Haryantos were wealthy and had set up a camp in Maasai Mara.

So close was Njonjo to the Haryantos that he was the best man at a wedding of one of the old man’s sons.

Found at the home were 20 rifles, six revolvers, two shotguns and five boxes of ammunition containing 3,684 rounds. There were also 5,575 cartridges and two tins of airgun pellets.

“The evidence clearly established that there was accumulation of an inordinate quantity of firearms and ammunition together with installation of ground to air and  ground transmitting and receiving radio equipment stored in two adjoining rooms of a private dwelling house,” the commission wrote in its report handed to Moi in November, 1984.

 “...More particularly, this huge cache of arms and ammunition was stored centrally within lethal range of State House, the headquarters of the Kenya Army and a police station. We saw for ourselves when we visited the Haryanto home officially during the course of the inquiry.”

Was Njonjo linked in any way to the weapons?

In the course of the sittings, several persons of interest emerged. Among them were Njonjo’s driver, Chief Inspector Kabucho Wakori, the chief licensing officer of the Central Firearms Bureau and Senior Superintendent of Police Douglas Alan Walker. Also mentioned was Captain Boskovic who was the MD of the Boskovic Air Charter of which Njonjo and Haryantos were shareholders and directors. Boscovic represented the Haryantos in business. 

62 WITNESSES

The testimony would turn crucial in unraveling the mystery of the weapons.

 In total, 62 witnesses were summoned, including Njonjo. The commission was chaired by Justice Cecil HE Miller.

According to evidence collected, 32 friends and family members of the Haryantos came to Kenya in June 1980, and were met and accommodated at JKIA’s VIP lounge by Njonjo’s driver, Wakori. He was in the company of Walker. Walker had arrived at the airport on the invitation of an employee of the Haryantos, Mohammed Bashir.

Bashir had brought a telex from an American named Kent Crane, which listed 17 weapons to be imported. It was addressed to Boskovic. Wakori said he went to the airport in Njonjo’s vehicle.

He collected the luggage of the Haryantos, “slipped it through without being checked while Walker was sitting upstairs in the VIP lounge chatting with the Haryantos in total dereriction of his duty and oblivious of the ostensible purpose of his visit to the airport,” the commission wrote.

Walker said he followed the firearms to Haryantos home where he planned to issue licences. But he could not recollect how many guns he saw. He could no longer trace the import licence in his file.  And there was the mystery of two guns given to him and Njonjo’s driver as “gifts.”

One, a .38 special revolver, was not even in the telex list. It was a colt revolver which cost between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000 at the time.

“To state the obvious, the .38 special revolver which was presented to Walker must have been smuggled into the country earlier on that occasion. How many more arms and ammuniation were similarly smuggled into the country? We shall never know,” said the report.

Another consignment was brought in by Kent Crane and another American named Theodore South Africa.  Again, they were received at the airport by Wakori, Walker and Bashir.  Wakori told the commission he was instructed by Njonjo’s secretary, Anne Warren-Hill (aka Penny Hill) to meet the arriving pair.

At the airport, the Americans tried to pass the baggage off as fishing rods, camping equipment and foodstuff but were stopped by a customs officer named Martin Goya Sitati. When they were ordered to open the luggage, officials found a rifle, two shot guns with telescopic sights, more rifles and about   5,000 rounds of ammunition.

“Among the firearms was also a 7.62mm military rifle which civilians are absolutely prohibited by law to import,” observed the commission.

“When asked to explain the lie, the Americans replied that the baggage had been packed and given to them by someone else for Njonjo and that they were not aware of the contents. At this point, Walker jumped forward and said he had been sent by Njonjo to issue an import permit for the arms.”

Plain lies

Walker later said he supervised the re-exportation of the rifle but could not provide records that he had followed procedure. He claimed the weapons were required by the Haryantos for defense of their camp near the Tanzanian border.

“We have no hesitation in saying that the two Americans who brought in the consignment knowingly told a plain but stupid lie about the contents of the consignment.”

The Haryantos had left the country in 1980. The Indonesians imported a total of 76 guns. But when official enquiries started about importations of firearms, Walker forced open the storeroom and went on a feverish process of making it appear that no wrongs had been committed.

The case of firearms was closely intertwined with that of Andrew Mungai Muthemba. He and his co-accused, Dickson Kamau, were acquitted in the trial in which the State accused them of trying to acquire arms illegally from the defunct Kenya Air Force to overthrow the government. Muthemba was Njonjo’s relative.

Part of the commission’s mandate was to find out whether Njonjo was involved in Muthemba’s activities and concealment.

In his defence at the trial, which was similar to his statement before the commission, Muthemba said he was a patriotic citizen who used his own money to investigate criminal activities.

Evidence

According to Njonjo, he had met Muthemba in his office on March 31, 1980. He informed Njonjo that some people were smuggling foreign currency. Njonjo telephoned Shapi, a Central Bank of Kenya official and asked him to investigate the matter.

“He never discussed arms smuggling. I never authorised him to carry any other matter…had he brought any matter to do with exchange control, I would have telephoned Shapi and if they were other criminal matters, I would have referred him to CID. He was not my informer,” Njonjo said at Muthemba’s trial. As the minister for Constitutional Affairs, the CID fell under Njonjo’s portfolio.

The commission found that Muthemba’s evidence was not consistent and did not correspond with that of Njonjo. It wrote that the evidence left “a formidable challenge to common sense and the resulting reasoning as to the real meaning of their evidence.”

It added: “We found him (Muthemba) to be one of the most intelligent and lucid witness. We found that he protected himself and his cousin Njonjo whenever occasion demanded.”

However, Njonjo declined to be cross-examined in-chief by his lawyer but made a short statement in which he thanked Moi.

 “But I do believe that the very fact that such proceedings have taken place is a tribute to the maturity and stability that exists in our country and the Christian wisdom of his Excellency the President.”  The commission said: “In making his statement, Njonjo did not appear to be concerned with the proceedings of the inquiry. Instead, he purported to address the President directly. By doing so, he once again left all the allegations made against him and the mass of the evidence adduced before us untouched, thereby leaving it open to adverse inferences to be drawn against him.”

It noted that Njonjo did not deny his connection with the Haryantos or Boskovic. He did not deny that Kabucho acted on his behalf and admitted that Penny Hill had been his personal secretary.”

The commission ruled: “…Njonjo conducted himself in a manner prejudicial to the security of the State. We find this allegation well established.” Njonjo was later pardoned by President Moi.

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