NYERI, Kenya, Feb 24 – He welcomed the idea of writing a book to document the behind-the-scenes events of August 1, 1982, when there was an attempted coup to overthrow the authoritarian regime of former president the late Daniel Arap Moi.
But Wahinya Wa-Boore, though having served a jail-term of 6 years at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and 46 more days in Nyayo torture chambers, remains cagey with all the details.
The 60-year-old admits that at some point, due to his active role as a student leader at the University of Nairobi, “we were recruited to it by the coup plotters.”
The desire to tell the whole story is there, he told Capital FM News crew at his rural home in Nyeri County, but then, there is something that holds him from doing so.
“I agree this should be documented for future generations. There has been an attempt to erase the history of this day and assume it never happened,” Wa-Boore said.
But among the “shocking” details he has, it is on the actual date the coup was supposed to happen.
“It happened on August 1, so that to pre-empt the then President Moi’s directive to arrest those who were planning it,” Wa-Boore, who said Moi all along knew the plans by the military to overthrow him, said.
“Moi had planted a spy who worked for both the teams that were planning and the government.”
You see, Wa-Boore vividly recalls that the former President had in late July visited Nyeri, to open the Agriculture Society Show (ASK).
It is while there, he revealed of the plans to overthrow his government “and instructed the service commanders to arrest all the coup plotters.”
According to Wa-Boore, a second liberation hero, the “coup plotters were to be arrested days before the planned date.”
READ: 46 Days Of Torture: Ngugi Wa Thiong’o Talk That Shaped Victim Of Nyayo House Torture Chambers’ Life
The coup was supposed to be carried out on August 8, 1982, he revealed, having played an active role in mobilsing the students from both Kenyatta and the University of Nairobi.
“Were it to happen on August 8, it would have been a huge success,” he said.
“There were no refined plans and proper communication structures for the coup to be successful. A senior military officer who was recruited by Moi as a spy leaked everything.”
His home is sandwiched between the Aberdare ranges, that served as home to the Mau Mau freedom fighters led by Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi.
Kimathi was sentenced by the colonial government and later hanged at the Kamiti Maximum Prison where his body is believed to have been buried at a secret location.
-Inside Kamiti we spoke the truth-
In block G, within the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where he was confined together with senior military officers, Wa-Boore learned that the coup was rushed.
“In prison, we spoke the truth. There is nothing that can happen beyond being imprisoned,” he said.
“Once we were arrested, we met in prison with so many other soldiers including very senior officers. In prison, we were put in one section of the facility, and we were given different assignments, mine being writing braille. That is where I learnt what transpired.”
With the abrupt measures and poor communication structures, he said, the coup failed.
“The coup came forward to pre-empt the arrest of the plotters,” he said.
Was he aware of the change of the coup date?
At 2am on August 1, 1982, hours before the coup started, he was taken to Moi Airbase in Eastleigh whe he was given a set of military uniform “and other paraphernalia. “Let me not elaborate what happened,” he says.
From the military base, he went back to the campus, took the school bus and drove tens of students to the Nairobi Central Business District, where they joined others from the University of Nairobi.
“The rest is history…,” he said.
His statement recorded at Nyeri Police station was one sentence.
“I was not in the know,” read the statement, according to his narration.
The coup lasted for 6 hours and at the end, tens of soldiers and civilians died.
-The December Movement-
From the word go, the coup plotters had sought the support of the education fraternity, particularly student leaders.
Being part of an underground movement that agitated for change in the early 1980’s, Wa-Boore and “almost 80 percent of the students were for the idea.”
Before then, he used to distribute the December 12 movement famously known as Mwakenya Movement publications, calling out for action against the government despite a government crackdown.
“We were tired of seeing our lecturers being arrested for no apparent reason,” Wa-Boore, who served as a Secretary-General of the Kenyatta University student body then, said.
“It was a way of telling Moi that we would not allow him to muzzle the education sector.”
Then, he recalled, most lecturers like the iconic author Ngugi wa Thiong’o were critical of how the government was being run. As a result, they became targets of the state machinery.
Other lecturers who were in the received end included Prof Edward Oyugi, Prof Ali Mazrui, Maina Kinyatti and Kamothe Wachira.
At some point in 1981, he was dismissed from the university alongside 32 others, for participating in a protest against harassment of lecturers by the state agencies.
He was later re-admitted on the intervention of a man of cloth, who was close to the former President.
“Five of us refused to write an apology letter to Moi but were still re-admitted,” he said with some sense of pride.
“I insisted that Moi was the one supposed to apologise to me for suspending me.”
Wa-Boore was introduced to the coup plotter known as Charles Mirasi who in turn recruited him. Their friendship started at Shimo La Tewa High School in Mombasa. It is Mirasi who took him to the Moi Airbase on the day the coup happened.
Mirasi is among soldiers who were executed at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.