|CAPE TOWN/SOUTH AFRICA, 10JUN2009 -Raila Amolo Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya, Kenya Business Alliance Against Chronic Hunger – World Economic Forum on Africa 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa, June 10, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Raila Amollo Odinga (born January 7, 1945), also popularly known to his supporters as Agwambo, is the Prime Minister of Kenya in a coalition government. Odinga, a former Member of Parliament for Langata since 1992, served as Minister of Energy from 2001 to 2002 and as Minister of Roads, Public Works, and Housing from 2003 to 2005. He was the main opposition candidate in the 2007 presidential election. Following a violentpost-electoral crisis, Odinga took office as Prime Minister in April 2008, serving as supervisor of a national unity coalition government. He came in second in Kenya’s 2013 presidential elections after garnering 5,340,546 votes which represented 43.28% of the total votes cast.
Odinga is the son of the first Vice President of Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga; Raila’s brother, Oburu Odinga, is also currently a Member of Parliament (MP). The family’s origin in Kenya’s majority Luo tribe has been a key to their political activity. Raila is commonly known by his first namedue to coincidence: he was an MP at the same time as his father between 1992 and 1994, and is currently in the House with Oburu. Raila was a presidential contender in the 1997 elections, coming third after President Daniel arap Moi of KANU and Mwai Kibaki, the current president of Kenyaand then a member of the Democratic Party. Odinga campaigned to run for president in the December 2007 elections on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket.
On September 1, 2007, Raila Odinga was elected as the presidential candidate of the ODM. He garnered significant support in the 2007 General Election, with majority of the votes in Rift Valley, Western, his native Nyanza, Coast, Nairobi (Capital) and North Eastern provinces. Kibaki led in his native Central province and beat Raila in Eastern province. Out of the 2007 elections, his party, ODM, got 99 out of 210 seats in the parliament, making the ODM the single largest party in parliament.
On December 30, 2007, the chairman of the Kenyan election commission declared Raila’s opponent, incumbent president Kibaki, the winner of the presidential election by a margin of about 230,000 votes. Raila disputed the results, alleging fraud by the election commission but refused to adhere to the constitutional procedure and present an election petition before the courts. Most opinion polls had speculated that Odinga would defeat president Kibaki. Independent international observers have since stated that the poll was marred by irregularities favouring both PNU and ODM, especially at the final vote tallying stages. Many ODM supporters across the country rioted against the announced election results.
Raila Odinga was born at Maseno Church Missionary Society Hospital, in Maseno, Kisumu District, Nyanza Province on January 7, 1945 to Mary Juma Odinga and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. His father served as the first Vice President of Kenya under President Jomo Kenyatta. He went to Kisumu Union Primary School, Maranda Primary and High School where he stayed until 1962. He spent the next two years at the Herder Institut, a part of the philological faculty at the University of Leipzig in East Germany. He received a scholarship that in 1965 sent him to the Technical School, Magdeburg (now a part of Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg) in the GDR. In 1970, he graduated with an Msc (Masters of Science) in Mechanical Engineering. While studying in East Berlin during the Cold War, as a Kenyan he was able to visit West Berlin through the Checkpoint Charlie. When visiting West Berlin, he used to smuggle goods not available in East Berlin and bring them to his friends in East Berlin.
He returned to Kenya in 1970. In 1971 he established the Standard Processing Equipment Construction & Erection Ltd (later renamed East African Spectre), a company manufacturing liquid petroleum gas cylinders. In 1974, he was appointed group standards manager of the Kenya Bureau of Standards, in 1978 he was promoted to its Deputy Director, a post he held until his 1982 detention.
Raila was placed under house arrest for seven months after evidence pointing to himself and his late father Oginga Odinga collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against PresidentDaniel arap Moi in 1982, where hundreds of Kenya citizens, thousands of rebels soldiers died. Several foreigners lost their lives too. Raila was later charged with treason and detained without trial for six years.
A biography released in July 2006 indicated that Raila was far more involved in the attempted coup than he had previously claimed. After its publication, some MPs called for Raila to be arrested and charged, but the statute of limitations had already passed and, since the information was contained in a biography, Raila could not be said to have openly confessed his involvement. His mother died in 1984, but it took the prison wardens two months to inform him of her death.
Released on February 6, 1988, he was rearrested in September, 1988 for his involvement with human rights and pro-democracy activists pressing for multi-party democracy in Kenya, which was then a one-party state. To his political followers, he is also referred as “Agwambo” meaning difficult to predict, or “Jakom” meaning Chairman.
Raila was released on June 12, 1989, only to be incarcerated again on July 5, 1990, together with Kenneth Matiba, and former Nairobi Mayor Charles Rubia. Raila was released on June 21, 1991, and in October, he fled the country to Norway alleging government attempts to assassinate him.
At the time of Raila’s departure to Norway, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), a movement formed to agitate for the return of multi-party democracy to Kenya, was newly formed. In February 1992, Raila returned to join FORD, then led by his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. He was elected Vice Chairman of the General Purposes Committee of the party. In the months running up to the 1992 General Election, FORD split into Ford Kenya, led by Raila’s father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and FORD-Asili led by Kenneth Matiba. Raila became Ford-Kenya’s Deputy Director of Elections. Raila won the Langata Constituency parliamentary seat, previously held by Philip Leakey of KANU.
When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga died in January 1994, and Michael Wamalwa Kijana succeeded him as FORD-Kenya chairman, Raila challenged him for the party leadership. The elections were marred by controversy after which Raila resigned from FORD-Kenya to join the National Development Party (NDP). In the 1997 General Election, Raila finished third after President Moi, the incumbent, and Democratic Party candidate Mwai Kibaki. He retained his position as the Langata MP.
After the election, Raila supported the Moi government, and led a merger between his party, NDP, and Moi’s KANU party. He served in Moi’s Cabinet as Energy Minister from June 2001 to 2002, during Moi’s final term.
In the subsequent KANU elections held later that year, he was elected the party’s secretary general. In 2002, the then President, Daniel Arap Moi, pulled a surprise by endorsing Uhuru Kenyatta – a son of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta to be his successor. Moi publicly asked Raila and others to support Uhuru as well.
Raila and other KANU members, including Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti and Joseph Kamotho, opposed this step arguing that the then 38 year old Uhuru, was politically inexperienced and lacked the leadership qualities needed to govern. The Rainbow Movement went on to join the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which later teamed up with Mwai Kibaki’s National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK), a coalition of several other parties, to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) that eventually defeated Moi’s protege, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Dissent from within
President Kibaki did not appoint Raila Odinga a Minister on assuming office as perceived to have been agreed in the memorandum of understanding (Kenya’s current constitution does not recognize a Prime minister); neither did he give LDP half the cabinet positions. He instead sought to shore up support for his NAK faction by appointing MPs from the opposition parties (KANU and FORD people) to the cabinet.
The perceived “betrayal” led to an open rebellion and a split within the cabinet, which culminated in disagreements over a proposed new constitution for the country. The government-backed constitutional committee submitted a draft constitution that was perceived to consolidate powers of the presidency and weaken regional governments as had been provided for under an earlier draft before the 2002 Elections. Raila opposed this, and when the document was put to a referendum on November 21, 2005, the government lost by a 57% to 43% margin. Following this, President Kibaki sacked the entire cabinet on November 23, 2005. When it was formed two weeks later, Raila and the entire LDP group were left out. This led to the formation of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) – an Orange was the symbol for the “no” vote in the constitutional referendum.
In January 2006, Raila Odinga was reported to have told police that he believed his life was in danger, having received assassination threats.