Raila Odinga Early Life
Raila Amollo Odinga, born 7 January 1945, the son of Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, has been an active political player in Kenya’s politics since early 1980s. Mr Odinga’s first attempt at the presidency was in 1997, when he performed dismally, coming third. He stayed out of the presidential race in 2002, backing Mwai Kibaki to trounce Uhuru Kenyatta in elections that saw the Kanu party lose power for the first time since independence in 1963. Mr Odinga and his supporters believe that he was robbed of victory in 2007 when he ran on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket, this time against Mr Kibaki. It was that election that deteriorated into nationwide ethnic violence, which left 1,300 Kenyans dead and more than 600,000 displaced. Odinga became prime minister under a power-sharing deal to end the post-election violence.
His struggle against one-party dictatorship saw him detained twice (from 1982 to 1988 and 1989 to 1991) and he holds the record for being Kenya’s longest-serving detainee. He was initially imprisoned for trying to stage a coup in 1982, which propelled him on to the national stage. While he denied his involvement in the coup at the time, he conceded in Enigma, a book authored by Nigerian Babafemi Badejo in 2006, that he had played a central role in it.
Raila Odinga Biography and Profile
Raila Amolo Odinga was born 7 January 1945. A son of Kenya’s first Vice-President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Odinga returned to Kenya and in May 1970 and joined the University of Nairobi, where he taught until 1974 as a tutorial fellow in the department of mechanical engineering. Odinga has held various cabinet positions under Moi and Kibaki administrations and controls the Odinga business empire. Odinga is a firm believer in welfare state as reflected in the manifesto of NASA.
2017 unsuccessful bid for the presidency was his fourth and most likely his last. Mr Odinga evokes mixed emotions in Kenya – he is loved and loathed in equal measure. No politician divides opinion like him. To his supporters, he is a democrat who has sacrificed a lot in his fight against dictatorship but others see him as a scheming and selfish person, who will do anything to gain power. Former Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa once described Mr Odinga’s supporters as suffering from “Railamania” and those who hated him as suffering from “Railaphobia”.
His strongest following is among his Luo community in the south-western region of Nyanza, where he was born and went to school. They have given him several nicknames over the years, including Tinga (tractor), Agwambo (act of god) and Baba (father). After qualifying as a mechanical engineer in the former East Germany, Mr Odinga had a short stint as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. A wealthy man by Kenyan standards, he has interests in liquid gas cylinder manufacturer, the East Africa Spectre, and ethanol production through the Kisumu Molasses Plan. He also has interests in the importation and distribution of petroleum.
Raila Odinga Education
Raila Odinga attended the Technical University of Magdeburg. Raila Odinga received his early education in Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, and then at Maranda School in his ancestral home area of Bondo. In 1965, Odinga joined the Magdeburg College of Advanced Technology (now Otto-Von-Guericke University) to study mechanical engineering (production technology). He graduated with a Master of Science degree.
Raila Odinga Political Career
Raila Odinga holds the record as the Kenyan politician who has changed political allegiances the most times. Each time he has moved, Mr Odinga has fashioned himself as a reformist. Raila Odinga is one of several politicians in Kenya who bear the mantle of political dynasties, and “Raila” is so called because he was an MP at the same time as his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga – Kenya’s first vice-president. A former university lecturer turned wealthy politician, Raila is a father of four and has interests in the energy sector. The 69-year-old (Born Jan 7, 1945) opposition leader’s followers also know him as Agwambo, meaning “difficult to predict”.
Odinga – a member of the Luo tribe, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya – was charged with treason and held without trial for six years for his alleged role in a failed 1982 coup attempt against President Daniel arap Moi. He was re-arrested months after his 1988 release for working with pro-democracy and human rights activists calling for multi-party democracy in Kenya, then a one-party state.
After a third period of incarceration, the born-again Christian fled the country for Norway, claiming government officials were conspiring to have him assassinated. He returned in 1992, and navigated divisions between opposition parties to be elected as MP for the Nairobi suburb of Langata, a seat he has held three times since, each time getting elected under the banner of a different party.
As prime minister Odinga, who trained as an engineer in East Germany, gave tax breaks on fuel and food ostensibly to benefit the poor. But he has also come under fire for anti-gay comments, and for claiming to be a cousin of US President Barack Obama.
Wildly popular in the lead-up to the 2007 vote, with a record-breaking 50,000 attending one campaign rally, Odinga alleged fraud when officials named incumbent President Mwai Kibaki the winner. As protests turned violent, and escalated along largely tribal divides, more than 1,400 were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced before a deal brokered by Kofi Annan saw Kibaki retain power, with Odinga filling the newly created position of prime minister.
Under his tenure as a prime minister Kenya enacted a new constitution, the first since the country gained independence from Britain in 1963.
Odinga was also appointed by the African Union to mediate the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis between President Alassane Ouattara and the then Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo.
Raila – the only Kenyan politician to change parties each time he vied for parliamentary seat – supported the ongoing trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of suspects of Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence. Current president Uhuru Kenya and his deputy William Ruto are both facing charges in the Hague for masterminding the bloodshed that followed the disputed election results.
An avid football fan and supporter of the English premier league team Arsenal – Raila had a brief stint as a semi-professional football player with Luo Union now renamed team Gor Mahia in the Kenya football league.
Raila Odinga Quick Facts
- In the August election, he ran on behalf of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), which includes all of Kenya’s main opposition groups.
- The astute politician that he is, Mr Odinga has been using allegory and riddles to tell his supporters how the electoral commission denied him of victory.
- He has referred to Mr Kenyatta as a “computer generated leader” to push his point that the commission’s system were allegedly compromised to steal the election.
- He says that his decision to withdraw from the race was based on the commission’s refusal to make changes to its systems and to fire the officials he blames for bungling the election. The commission however says that Mr Odinga’s name will be on the ballot unless he fills in and submits a form which the opposition leader has said he will not do. His move to withdraw from the election has so far not alienated his supporters. They back his slogan that “no reforms, no election.”
- Mr Odinga has called for massive protests on election day.
- In Kenya’s ethnic based politics Mr Odinga enjoys the backing of key communities – the Luo (to which he belongs), Luhya and Kamba. He has managed to get supporters of Musalia Mudavadi, who ran for the election in 2013, but now backs him, to boost his numbers and avoid splitting the opposition vote.
- Kalonzo Musyoka was once again Mr Odinga’s running mate.
- Mr Odinga’s move to change parties has been driven by his willingness to form alliances, even at one time entering into a coalition with former President Daniel Moi, under whom he had been detained. But he has stayed with the same core party, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), since 2005. The party got its name from a referendum campaign Mr Odinga led against a proposed constitution in 2005. The nays were denoted by an orange while supporters were given a banana symbol. Mr Odinga’s more creative supporters still adorn themselves with bunches of oranges.
- But alliances are not always easy and he broke up with former President Kibaki after the 2002 election because Mr Kibaki reneged on a pre-election power-sharing deal.
- An astute politician and avid campaigner who is known to move crowds using parables and football commentary, Mr Odinga represented Lang’ata constituency in the capital, Nairobi, uninterrupted for 20 years.
- And he refused to accept that he had lost again on 8 August to Uhuru Kenyatta, the same man who beat him in the 2013 election and is the son of Kenya’s first President, Jomo Kenyatta.
- Mr Odinga’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, served as Jomo Kenyatta’s vice-president but the pair fell out and Mr Odinga quit in 1966, sparking a political rivalry that is yet to be settled.
- Odinga named his first-born son Fidel Castro. Representing Nairobi’s Kibera slum, one of Africa’s largest, Odinga projects himself as a champion of the poor. But he has a large business empire and is a member of Kenya’s wealthy elite.
- Some attribute Odinga’s toughness to the 9 years he spent in jail under Moi for protesting at one-party rule. He served six years in solitary confinement. He was charged with treason over the coup bid, before fleeing to Norway for a brief exile.
- A former ally of Kibaki, he helped him win power in 2002 and served for three years in his cabinet before being sacked for campaigning against him in a 2005 constitutional referendum.
- Odinga’s flamboyant style has seen him driving to rallies in a bright red Hummer H2. The Odinga family home displays part of his book collection — from Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs to biographies of Stalin — as well as two stuffed lions he is said to have picked up in Tanzania and South Africa.
Raila Odinga Pushing for Political Reforms
Odinga has been associated with pushing for political reforms, sometimes taking leadership of the reform process that culminated into the new constitution that Kenyans approved in a referendum in August 2010.
Raila Amolo Odinga’s Political Odyssey
- Forum For Restoration of Democracy: Before 1992
- Ford-Kenya: 1992 – 1994
- National Development Party: 1994 – 2002
- Kenya African National Union (Kanu): 2000 – 2002
- Liberal Democratic Party (LDP): 2002 – 2005
- National Rainbow Coalition (Narc; LDP was a member of the coalition)
- Orange Democratic Movement (ODM): 2005 – present
- Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord): 2013 – present
- National Super Alliance (Nasa; ODM is a member of the alliance)
Raila Odinga swears himself in as ‘president’
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, who boycotted the country’s disputed election in 2017, swore himself in as the “people’s president” at a mock inauguration ceremony Tuesday in protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Thousands of opposition supporters gathered at Uhuru Park in central Nairobi, chanting slogans and waving tree branches at the symbolic “swearing-in” event, which was organized by Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA). The event was largely peaceful, and the throngs of supporters quickly left the park after proceedings had concluded. In what appear to be an isolated incident, police fired tear gas to try to to disperse crowds pulling down signs near the park.
Authorities had earlier said they would put a stop to any illegal meetings, but Reuters reported that no uniformed police could be seen in the park and no anti-riot officers or vehicles were visible.
Afterward, the biography on Odinga’s verified Twitter account had been updated to read: “This is the official account of His Excellency Raila Amolo Odinga, President of the Republic of Kenya.”
Kenyatta won a second presidential term with 98% of the vote following a controversial election rerun in November. The country’s Supreme Court nullified the previous ballot, also won by Kenyatta, due to “illegalities and irregularities.”
Odinga and his opposition party dropped out of the second vote, claiming the election commission had failed to implement any reforms. NASA says it wants to create an alternative government to protest Kenyatta’s rule. Some are hoping Tuesday’s event will push Kenyatta, who promised to work toward national unity during his second term, to include opposition leaders in dialogue and in his ministerial appointments. But the government has warned that Tuesday’s events amount to treason — an offense punishable by death, according to Kenyan law.
Television stations were pulled off air by the government
Ahead of the event, three of the country’s largest television stations were pulled off air by the government — a move not seen in the country for years. “President Kenyatta expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licenses of any media that would broadcast the planned purported swearing in of NASA leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka on Tuesday,” Kenya Editors Guild Chairman Linus Kaikai said in a statement on Monday night. Local channels KTN, NTV and Citizen television’s free-to-air channels were turned off beginning around 10:00 a.m. (2:00 a.m. ET) Tuesday morning. National newspapers captured the sense of uncertainty: One headline read “Moment of truth,” while another read “What to expect on this day of conflict.”
“The swearing in of any person not lawfully declared to have won an election by the independent election and boundaries commission, and the swearing in that is not conducted by the chief justice of the Republic of Kenya is a process wholly unanticipated by the constitution and is null and void and illegal,” Muigai said.
Raila Odinga Family
Raila Odinga Family includes his Spouse: Ida Odinga (m. 1973). Children: Fidel Odinga, Rosemary Odinga, Winnie Odinga, Raila Odinga Jr.
The Quest for Nationhood: Roadmap to Our Future: how Kenya Can Recover Lost Ground and Achieve Prosperity for All.
Raila Amolo Odinga Biography and Profile