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I was shaking - Leonard Mambo Mbotela shares details of his kidnapping, separation from family

Veteran broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela shares the terrifying details of his kidnapping during Hezekiah Ochuka's attempted coup and how a loyalist became his lifesaver.

Leornard Mambo Mbotela

In a gripping account, veteran broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela shares the terrifying details of his kidnapping during Hezekiah Ochuka's attempted coup in 1982.

Speaking on the Chipukeezy show, Mbotela said he was not sure whether he was going to survive the incident.

Mbotela who was then the head of the Swahili news department at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), formerly known as Voice of Kenya (VOK), said he found himself thrust into a life-threatening situation on the night of the coup.


Having just returned home after dropping off his sister at the airport, he sensed an emergency at the station and assumed his presence was urgently required.

To his shock, Mbotela was confronted by a shaken driver who informed him that someone wanted to see him in the car.

Little did he know that the person in the car was none other than Hezekiah Ochuka, the leader of the coup. Forced to get dressed, Mbotela was taken from his home by rebel soldiers, uncertain of his fate and bidding his family a heartfelt goodbye.

"I was sandwiched between my driver and an army man who I later found out was coup leader Ochuka," Mbotela said.


Mbotela was coerced into reading a script declaring Ochuka as the new president. In a broadcast to the nation, he trembled as he announced the overthrow of President Moi's government, urging citizens to stay indoors until further notice.

"I was shaking as I made the broadcast....' Dear listener, my name is Leonard Mambo Mbotela from VOK, and I have here with me Hezekiah Ochuka. President Moi's government has been overthrown, and Ochuka is the new president. Everyone is now a civilian. I urge you to stay indoors until further notice," Mbotela recounted.

The veteran journalist vividly recalled the emotional turmoil he experienced during that broadcast.


As army loyalists closed in pursuit of Ochuka and his cohorts, Mbotela faced General Mahamoud Mohamed, a loyalist who demanded that he make another broadcast retracting his previous statement.

Complying with the orders, Mbotela announced the failure of the coup and President Moi's continued leadership, hoping to bring an end to the nightmare.

Despite the grave risks, Mbotela's courage and compliance with the loyalists played a pivotal role in his survival.

The coup leaders fled upon the arrival of loyalist forces, and Mbotela was finally free to reunite with his family.


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