Hezekiah Rabala Ochuka: The Man Who Led Coup Against President Moi

  • Hezekiah Rabala Ochuka was a Senior Private in the Kenya Air Force, who ruled Kenya for about six hours after planning and executing a coup against President Daniel arap Moi on August 1, 1982.

    Ochuka was recruited into the Kenya Air Force on September 14, 1976, in Mombasa and underwent eight weeks of military training at Lanet Army Barracks in Nakuru, and was posted to Eastleigh Air Base.

    From October 30, 1978, to January 21, 1980, he attended a course in RAF Cosford, UK, after which he worked as a Senior Private Grade-I, the second lowest rank in Kenya’s military.

    On Aug 2, 1982, the country woke up in confusion as heavy gunfire filled the air.

    A group of rogue soldiers led by Ochuka had seized power at night after storming the National broadcaster V.O.K(now KBC) where they announced that they were now in charge of the country and were being fought by the loyal soldiers.

    [caption caption="Hezekiah Rabala"][/caption]

    [caption caption="Kenyans During the Coup"][/caption]

    They forced a group of Air Force fighter pilots to bomb the State House at gunpoint and took charge of the nation for at least 6 hours.

    The pilots pretended to follow orders on the ground but once airborne they ignored them and instead dropped the bombs over Mount Kenya forests.

    President Moi later announced that loyal army and police units had crushed an attempted coup on his civilian government.

    At least 9 civilians were killed and scores of casualties were reported at the three air force bases.

    Hospitals reported that more than 50 people mainly civilians had been treated for gunshot injuries. 

    Moi advised Kenyans to stay at home "until this trouble is over".

    Sporadic firings were still being heard in downtown Nairobi where army officials said rebel snipers were holed up on top of high rise buildings.

    More than 300 air force personnel were later captured and detained but the colonel who led the coup (Ochuka) was still at large. 

    He had escaped to Tanzania but was extradited back to Kenya where he was tried and found guilty of leading the coup attempt.

    He was hanged in 1987.