Kenyan Governor Charged with Rape and Murder of Pregnant Student Girlfriend

Okoth Obado, the governor of Migori County, sits in the dock at the Mililani Law Court in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 24, 2018. Obado was charged with murdering a university student whom he had got pregnant. REUTERS/Stringer

A governor in Kenya has been charged with involvement in the killing of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, following weeks of media furor that gripped the nation and sparked huge public anger.

Okoth Obado, the married governor of Migori County, in the southwest of the East African nation, was charged with aiding and abetting the brutal murder of Sharon Otieno, 26, the BBC reported.

Otieno's body was found in a forest bearing at least eight stab wounds in the neck, abdomen and back. The attack killed her unborn child, and investigators believe she may have also been raped.

Obado has been remanded in custody until his bail application is heard. The country's chief prosecutor, Noordin Haji, had earlier ordered charges for two of Obado's aides, one for murder and the other for aiding and abetting murder.

Kenya's Standard newspaper said that while Obado remained composed and stern in the courtroom, Otieno's mother, Melida Auma, struggled to hold back her tears.

"Sharon and her unborn baby lost their lives in a gruesome and horrifying manner in the hands of her killers," Haji said. "My office is therefore committed to ensuring that all the perpetrators of the heinous act are brought to book and subjected to the due process of the law."

Otieno died after revealing her relationship with the governor to journalist Barack Oduor, who was working for the Nation Media Group. Otieno and Oduor met to discuss her information on September 3, but the pair were then kidnapped.

Odour managed to escape from the kidnappers' speeding car, but Otieno was not so lucky. Two days later, her body was found among trees near Oyugis, a small town in the west of the country.

Police soon tracked the vehicle used by the plotters and discovered that its tracking device had been deactivated the day before the kidnapping and turned back on the following day. The chief prosecutor said this was a "well-calculated move by the killers to conceal the movement of the vehicle in question."

Investigators then discovered the "intimate relationship" between Obado and Otieno. Haji said this resulted in "a pregnancy with the deceased that the governor was unhappy about."

On September 12, Obado responded to public and media pressure to deny he had any hand in his ex-girlfriend's murder. The governor said that as "a law-abiding citizen, I want to state here clearly and categorically that I have nothing and absolutely nothing to do with the cruel death of Sharon."

The governor's lawyer, Cliff Ombeta, told the BBC that while the two had been in a relationship, Obado did not know for sure if the child was his. He added the couple had come to an agreement by which Obado would look after the child if indeed it was his. Ombeta noted the governor had helped support Otieno financially.

Ombeta said the governor would not have killed Otieno to hide the relationship, as he claimed it was common knowledge already. "The wife had known. There was no shame left. There was no embarrassment left," the lawyer explained. "So malice couldn't then have been created thereafter."