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Raila’s bodyguard lives to tell horror of three days in captivity

As a bodyguard of veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, Mr Maurice Ogeta is used to being in risky situations sometimes. On several occasions during protests, his boss’s car has been shot at.

When he is not working hard to protect Mr Odinga during confrontations with security forces, he has the tough duty of watching over him as his convoy meanders through crowded settlements under the cover of darkness, where danger lurks at every turn.

As the last line of defence for his boss, one would expect nothing to shake the battle-hardened aide. However, events of the last three days have left Mr Ogeta terrified.

The ordeal started on Wednesday morning. He had expected it to be another tough day in office, being the first of three-day protests called by the opposition. He had not anticipated the horror that was about to unfold as he drove into a carwash yard.

“I was watching my car being washed when I saw two Subarus parked, forming a ‘T’. Within no time, I was whisked to one of them,” he told the Sunday Nation.

He described how he was manhandled while confined in the car’s boot and branded a dangerous individual. The abductors tried to drive his car. To their shock, they realised it was not easy to start and drive due to its security features. They bombarded him with questions on how to operate the car.

They used his instructions to start it, but it kept stalling on the way due to its features. At some point, the abductors took him out of the Subaru boot to show them how to operate the vehicle. This was at around the Integrity Centre in Nairobi.

Also read: Bizarre release of Raila Odinga’s bodyguard Maurice Ogeta

He said this action might be the reason the captors eventually decided to get him out of the boot to occupy one of the Subaru seats.

“(It is as if) they acknowledged my directions and granted me the privilege of sitting with them,” he said.

He was not certain about the identities of his captors, but their mission would later give them away as State agents.

Mr Ogeta was first taken to the Nairobi Area Police Station. Later, he was blindfolded and then transferred to an undisclosed location, where he was confined to an empty room. This was the start of the next 36 hours of nightmarish treatment under the watch of one officer.

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga and his bodyguard Maurice Ogeta. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“I was alone (in the room), with one officer who was watching over me. He was put there to make sure I’m inside there. Inside the room…I stayed three days without showering. The ugly torture was inside the car but not in the room I was. I was in the same clothes from that day to today morning,” he said.

During his solitary confinement, Mr Ogeta was repeatedly interrogated about the route plan for the demonstrations.

“Their approach was quite rough, physically turning me around and questioning whether I was a police officer. Though not intended to be malicious, at times they seemed to go overboard,” he said.

He spoke of relentless questioning by his captors, who also wanted to know Mr Odinga’s whereabouts and the plans for demonstrations.

Also read: ‘Hatutaki mkate yao imeoza,’ Raila shoots back at Ruto – Exclusive

“The questions were about maandamano (protests). The most irritating questions were about Raila: ‘What is his plan about maandamano? What is he going to do? Where is he going tomorrow? What is the itinerary?’” he recalled.

Mr Ogeta insists he maintained his boss was unwell, and he was unsure if he planned to participate in the protests, if at all.

Mr Odinga later told Nation that he had a bad flu that had forced him to stay away from public engagements. Mr Ogeta’s captors, however, would have none of his explanations, leaving Mr Ogeta frustrated.

“I said like 100 times, ‘I don’t have his itinerary because the last time I was with him he was not feeling well. So, is the priority his health or maandamano?’ But nobody wanted to hear about that,” said Mr Ogeta.

Mr Ogeta says he was only given food on the second day. But he had lost his appetite.

“They brought beef and cabbage, but that is not the best environment to eat. The first thing that happens is you lose your appetite. So, food is not a priority. I think I survived more on water. The officer I was left with was kind enough to offer (water),” he said.

With calls mounting for authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Mr Ogeta, the High Court on Friday directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Japheth Koome, to ensure he was presented in any court in the country. That intervention would appear to have brought an end to his torment.

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On Saturday at around 1 a.m., hooded gunmen abandoned him on the outskirts of Ruai. Although disoriented, he managed to find his way back home with the help of a passerby.

Though relieved to be free, he returned home to find his car vandalised and some belongings missing. His phone that had sensitive information had been wiped clean.

Mr Ogeta said he had done nothing to deserve such traumatic treatment. He called on those in position of authority to avoid subjecting innocent individuals to unnecessary drama and psychological torture.

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga and his bodyguard Maurice Ogeta during a past function. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“I thank God that I am alive to tell people the story. I had registered that I was gone since I was not seeing myself as any more special than those who had gone before me in similar ways,” said Mr Ogeta.

He expressed his gratitude to Kenyans, his family, and Mr Odinga for their unwavering support and piling pressure for his release.

The emotional toll of the experience was evident as he recounted how his family cried with relief upon seeing him safe.

Mr Ogeta said he met Mr Odinga some years back during their mutual involvement in sports and fitness activities. This resulted in a bond between the two.

“Raila Odinga is a sportsperson. He likes fitness and sports and I am into sports as well. We met and somehow bonded and here I am,” he said.

Also read: Why just a handful of women show up for demonstrations