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Murder suspected in Kenyan minister's death

Published Oct. 16, 2005

The partially burned body of Kenyan Foreign Minister Robert Ouko wasdiscovered Friday in a sugar cane field four miles from his home in western Kenya, two days after Ouko's family reported him missing, officials said Friday. Investigators said they believe he was murdered.

President Daniel Arap Moi expressed "profound sorrow" over Ouko's death and promised that "anyone who may be associated with this horrible event will most certainly be apprehended and brought to justice." No suspects have been arrested.

Ouko, 58, was one of the staunchest supporters and most outspoken defenders of Moi's 12-year rule. Ouko was last seen alive by members of his family Tuesday when he left the house on his farm in Koru, about 150 miles northwest of Nairobi near Lake Victoria, officials said. They said Ouko's family did not know where he was going. The family reported Ouko missing Wednesday.

The report triggered a manhunt Thursday and Friday by Kenyan security forces. Several of Ouko's bodyguards also were reported missing.

Ouko was first appointed foreign minister in 1979. He served for four years before assuming other posts in the Moi Cabinet between 1983 and 1988. He was reappointed foreign minister in 1988.

A frequent companion of Moi on the president's overseas trips, Ouko's last foreign appearance was in Washington late last month when he and Moi attended a congressional prayer breakfast. During the visit, Ouko stridently defended Kenya's controversial human-rights record at a press conference.

The news of Ouko's death stunned many Kenyans, who described the veteran statesman as a popular figure, particularly in his home district in western Kenya where he was the local leader of the ruling Kenya African National Union.