Tuesday 18 June 2024


"Field Marshal" John Okello was hailed as a hero in Kenya when he led a successful revolution in Zanzibar in January 1964.

The Daily Nation and its sister newspaper Taifa Leo even carried misleading headlines claiming he was a Kenyan just because he had the name Okello which is common among Luos of Kenya and other Luos of East Africa. 

"Mkenya Kaongoza vita vya uhuru," read the headline of Taifa Leo.

The paper went on to claim how Shujaa Okello was born in Siaya in Central Nyanza. In a case similar to that of Lema Ayanu the fake General Mathenge, all these turned out to be fallacies when it was realised that Okello couldn't speak Kenyan dholuo. He was a Lango born and brought up in Northern Uganda.

Okello made his first visit to Kenya as the leader of the revolution on February 28,1964. He arrived aboard an EAA aircraft and was immediately driven to a meeting with Jomo Kenyatta at Harambee House. He also met Ugandan leader Apollo Milton Obote who was in Kenya for EACSO and also had a meeting with DR Kiano the Minister for Commerce.

Despite receiving a heroic welcome, no hotel in Nairobi was ready to admit him and his delegation. They tried booking rooms in two hotels but they were turned away. It took the intervention of the Minister for Broadcasting and Information Ramogi Achieng Oneko for the party to be admitted at Norfolk Hotel.

One week later Okello was expelled by his fellow comrades in the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government, who deported him to Tanganyika.

"The only clothes I have are what I am wearing now.They stopped me from going into the town saying people did not want me," he told reporters in Dar es Salaam.

In Kenya his presence was no longer needed, and he was hunted down like a rabbit when rumours emerged that he had been sighted in the country. Sir Richard Catlin the Commissioner of Kenya Police personally flew to Mombasa to report to Jomo Kenyatta  how intelligence sources had revealed that Okello was being hosted by Odinga.

Leading the hunt was Minister of State Joseph Murumbi who also ensured all ports of entry including Nairobi Airport were sealed off to prevent Okello sneaking through in case he was still outside the borders. Odinga's house in Kisumu was also searched but Okello was nowhere to be found. One senior government official who shared  names with Okello was arrested in Nairobi  in a case of mistaken identity.

Okello was later to emerge in Uganda. Where according to some sources he became a carpenters while others claimed he became a carpenter.

The last time he was seen in public was when he met Amin. After that he disappeared never to be heard of again. It is claimed  that  Amin saw him as a potential  threat  and decided  to get rid of him. #Africa #Kenya

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