Kenya seethes as Tanzania protects coup plotters

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Relations between capitalist Kenya and socialist Tanzania were stretched thin when the Air Force men said to have mounted a coup attempt in Kenya fled to Tanzania.

Last weekend they nearly snapped as Tanzania granted political asylum to the two self-styled leaders of the coup, Senior Pvt. Hezekiah Ochuka and Senior Sgt. Pacras Okumu.

Tanzania, however, is apparently uncomfortable playing host to the pair. The government has approached the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to find another country of asylum for the Kenyans. Nations in and outside Africa have been approached, so far without success.

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Messrs. Ochuka's and Okumu's names have repeatedly surfaced in Kenyan courts-martial as leaders of the coup. For months the Kenyan government has tried to extradite the pair on charges of kidnapping two Air Force majors and forcing them to fly a hijacked plane to the Tanzanian capital on the afternoon of the coup.

The Tanzanian court rejected the attempts, holding that Kenya's case against Ochuka and Okumu is political, and therefore the two are entitled to asylum.

At time of writing the Kenyans were still in protective custody, but Tanzania's minister of home affairs said they were now ''free to live in Tanzania.''

Relations between Kenya and Tanzania have been cool since the East African Community collapsed.

Tanzania actually closed its border with Kenya. All trade and communications between the neighbors are paralyzed. The process of settling up the assets and liabilities of the former East African Community has been on hold since the extradition row.

Meanwhile in Kenya some 200 junior Air Force men have been court-martialed for their roles in the attempted coup and have received from six to 26 years in jail sentences.

So far no senior officer, official, minister, or any important politician has been named in the courts-martial, and most signs point to Ochuka being the coup leader. The Kenyan Army foiled the coup. Hundreds of Kenyans died in the coup-related violence and looters devastated Nairobi's shopping district.

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