1982 Kenyan coup d'état attempt

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The 1982 Kenyan coup d'état attempt was a failed attempt to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi's government. At midnight on Sunday, 1 August 1982, a group of soldiers from the Kenya Air Force took over the radio station Voice of Kenya and announced that they had overthrown the government. The group tried to force a group of Air Force fighter pilots to bomb the State House at gunpoint. The pilots pretended to follow orders on the ground but once airborne they ignored them (confusing a member the coup group in one of the plans) and instead dropped the bombs over Mount Kenya's forests.[1]

Hezekiah Ochuka, a Senior Private Grade-I (the second lowest rank in the Kenyan military), ruled Kenya for about six hours before escaping to Tanzania. After being extradited back to Kenya, he was tried and found guilty of leading the coup attempt and hanged in 1987. Also implicated in the coup attempt was Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former Vice-President to Jomo Kenyatta, and his son Raila Amolo Odinga. The putsch was quickly suppressed by forces commanded by Chief of General Staff Mahamoud Mohamed, a veteran Somali military official.[2] They included the General Service Unit (GSU) — a paramilitary wing of the police — and later the regular police.

The plan[edit]

Ochuka had become obsessed with becoming the President of Kenya at one time in his lifetime.[3] He had the words "The next president of Kenya" carved on his desk and this led him to quickly accept a proposal by Obuon and Oteyo to overthrow the government which was being led by Daniel Moi.

He went ahead to recruit some soldiers from his base at Embakasi and this included those who ranked higher than him.[3] There was a heated debate of who would become the chairman of the People Redemption Council (PRC) so that he would assume the presidency position after the coup. In his part, Obuon claimed that he had recruited the largest number of soldiers into the plan and so he warranted the chairmanship. Obuon also added the fact that he had served as the chairman of the Airmen's mess. Ochuka had threatened that all soldiers he had recruited would quit the plan if he was not selected as the chairman. Obuon and Ochuka had a heated debate that almost broke into a fight over the chairmanship until Oteyo intercepted and advised Obuon to leave the chairmanship to Ochuka, whom they would kill after the successful coup.[3] Ochuka may have suspected the plot of Obuon and Oteyo. He rallied support from soldiers to him as an individual and he went further to build a protective wall around him. He also rallied support from Obuon's old political friend and it is believed that the old friend even gave him two million shillings and a second hand car. He had also managed to steal some military communication equipment which he had set up at a private house in Nairobi which was located a few kilometres from the city center.

In late July 1982, Ochuka held a secret meeting at football grounds near Umoja estate, and details of how the coup was to be executed were discussed. During this meeting, Ochuka told the attendees that he had the support of Uganda, Tanzania and Sudan who would send their soldiers to the borders to counter any opposition. He went further to allege that he had the blessings of Russia who would send a Soviet ship to the Kenyan coast to guard against any external interference. Ochuka had made up all these stories to convince his recruits to take up the risk in the mission.[3]


Oteyo said that the coup failed because most of the soldiers did not execute their parts of the plan since most of the soldiers were busy looting instead of going to arrest the president and his ministers. The coup leader Ochuka, had gone to fetch a radio presenter, Leonard Mambo Mbotela.[3]

The coup left more than 100 soldiers dead and perhaps 200 civilians, including several non-Kenyans.

After the foiled coup, the organizers were arrested and tried at the martial courts in the Kenya Army Langata Barracks.Corporal Bramwel Injeni Njereman who was an armaments technician was the second to be convicted of treason on 24 November 1984. He was found guilty of five overt acts and sentenced to death by being hanged.[1] Corporal Walter Odira Ojode was the first to be charged of the same offence on 16 December 1982 of which he was found guilty and he also received the death penalty. Both appealed their cases but they still lost the cases. The death sentences were executed on the night of 10 July 1985 at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison together with coup mastermind Hezekiah Ochuka and his counterpart Pancras Oteyo Okumu. Up to date they are the last people to be executed under the death penalty under the Kenyan law. After the coup attempt, the entire Kenya Air Force was disbanded. In the end, a total of twelve people had been sentenced to death, and over 900 were jailed. The convicts who were hanged were buried at the Kamiti maximum prison.

During the court trials, the name of Oginga Odinga was mentioned several times as having financed the organizers and he was put under house arrest.[4] His son Raila Odinga together with other university lecturers were sent to detention after being charged for treason..[4]

The coup attempt is also a direct cause for the snap elections in 1983.

In response to alleged campus involvement in the failed coup, the Kenyan government accused external communist sources of secretly funding the attempt.[5]


  1. ^ a b Gachuhi, Roy (11 December 2009). "How heroic trio of fighter pilots scuttled mission to bomb State House and GSU". nation.co.ke. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Society. Nyamora Communications Limited. 1992. p. 12. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Jim Bailey; Garth Bundeh. Kenya: The National Epic. East African Publishers; 1993 [cited 1 August 2012]. GGKEY:EKUEFUF9WH9. p. 269.
  4. ^ a b Jemima Atieno Oluoch (2006). The Christian Political Theology of Dr. John Henry Okullu. Uzima Publishing House. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-1-870345-51-4. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Rodger Yeager, Norman Miller (2012). "Kenya: The Quest For Prosperity, Second Edition — Norman Miller, Rodger Yeager — Google Books". books.google.co.ke. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

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