Failed coup attempt that turned Nyayo regime on its head

Thursday, February 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Residents queue to sign condolence book for the late former President Moi in Kabarnet town, Baringo county, yesterday. Photo/PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

After the failed August 1, 1982 coup attempt, President Moi disbanded the entire Kenya Air Force, shuffled, sacked and removed other security chiefs.

Following the role General Service Unit (GSU) officers played during and after the failed coup, President Moi chose to work closely with the paramilitary wing of the then Kenya Police Force and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) now named the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Two weeks after the attempt, President Moi appointed the then Rift Valley police boss Erastus M’Mbijiwe – one of the officers who escorted him (Moi) back to Nairobi after the coup was thwarted - as the head of the GSU.

M’Mbijiwe, on learning of the coup, directed his officers to remain at their workstations and rushed to State House Nakuru.

M’Mbijiwe served from August 1982 to April 1987 when he handed over to J.K Kosgei, who served until June 1999 when he handed over to Samson Cheramboss.

Cheramboss was replaced when Kibaki took over and appointed Lawrence Mwadime as the GSU boss.

Despite the changes, the former head of intelligence, the Special Branch, James Kanyotu was, however, not affected and went on to turn the unit into the most dreaded security organ. Kenya was gradually turned into a seemingly police state.

Aware of coup

Kanyotu had infiltrated the military and was aware of the coup plan and on July 20, 1982, he asked President Moi to allow him to arrest the soldiers who were planning the coup but the latter was reluctant in involving the police in military matters.

The matter was to be dealt with on August 2, which was a Monday, but the coup happened a day earlier.

To him Kanyotu was a policeman and could not arrest military soldiers. On the day of the coup, there were military war games in Lodwar implying that most soldiers and senior officers were away from Nairobi.

The rebels had reportedly planned to bomb State House and the GSU headquarters along Thika Road.

Among the senior most military officials around were the Army Commander Lt. Gen John Sawe and his deputy Maj Gen Mahmoud Mohammed (pictured).

A meeting was convened and it was agreed that Maj. Gen Mohammed would take charge of the operations to suppress the coup.

The first team stormed the Voice of Kenya (VoK) studios, killed and captured some soldiers before directing Leonard Mambo Mbotela, who had earlier been captured by the mutineers, to announce that the rebels had been defeated and that Moi was back in power.

With the help of the GSU officers, Maj Gen Mohammed gained control of Nairobi and forced the rebels out of town.

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