Thursday, July 24, 2008



The Standard
JuLY 22, 2008
By John Oywa

The secrets of how Prime Minister Raila Odinga inherited his father’s leadership legacy can today be unravelled.

The Standard stumbled on this hitherto guarded ritual at the shrine of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Bondo—in a booklet.

Elsewhere, a documentary posted on the Internet by Raila appears to be confirming this covenant with a frank admission of how his father handed him the ropes that he would later use to navigate his way around the quicksand that is Kenyan politics.

"Jaramogi called Raila into his office at the factory and they talked for an hour. It was not unusual for them to have a prolonged discussion but the topics that Jaramogi chose that day were unusual for a Tuesday morning at work," reads the booklet, Passing of a Hero, in part.

The booklet traces Jaramogi’s last moments in Nairobi and Kisumu.

It emerged that a secret meeting by a group of elders quickly followed to consummate this covenant. "A group old men, among them, Mbaka Jaramo Oyoo, Ogango Ojwang’, Ombok Thim, Raphael Ndai, Adala Otuko, Koyo Opien and Oduke Odinga met and resolved to bless Raila as heir," Mzee Odungi Randa, a long time aide and personal friend of Jaramogi, disclosed.

The die had been cast

In the online documentary, Raila says: "My father, who had been a disciple of Kenyatta championed the release of Jomo Kenyatta and those who were detained. He dedicated all his life to the struggle of ordinary persons, I learnt a lot from him."

Published soon after his death and kept out of mass circulation, the booklet reveals how one chilly morning in January 1994, the ailing Jaramogi summoned Raila for an urgent meeting in Nairobi before travelling to Kisumu where he would die a few hours later. It was during the hour-long meeting at the family’s company premises in Industrial Area that Raila last saw his father alive.

Unknown to many Kenyans, it was also at this meeting that Jaramogi, seemingly conscious of his impending death, passed the leadership baton to his son.

"He talked of the Luo community and of what he considered distasteful speculation about his ‘mantle’ and who it should be passed to. He also talked about Ford-Kenya and the different forces within it, lecturing Raila on the nature of politics and of men," the booklet, which also documents how Jaramogi pursued his quest for multi-party politics for 22 years despite poor health, reveals.

Political analysts now believe that it was after Raila buried his father that he quietly but firmly took control of Luo politics.

Just like voters locked his father’s critics out of political leadership, those who would become reluctant to embrace Raila have been rejected in all elections since Jaramogi’s death.

Even an attempt to divide his supporters in South Nyanza by whipping up emotions on the Odinga/Tom Mboya rivalry failed. Mboya, the slain Minister for Planning, hailed from southern Nyanza.

In the 1992 elections, for example, only politicians who contested on Jaramogi’s Ford-K were elected to Parliament. Prominent Luo politicians who suffered his wrath included Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno, who lost the Rongo seat to Aluoch Polo, Ojwang’ Kombudo, who lost the Nyakach seat to Dennis Akumu, Peter Nyakiamo, who was replaced by Dr Omolo Opere and James Mbori, who was swept away by Oloo Otula, among others.

This would play out again in 1994. Raila and his allies dumped Ford-K for a new outfit, National Development Party (NDP). Luo MPs who did not defect to the new party were rejected in the 1997 elections. Those who remained in Ford-K with the new party chairman Kijana Wamalwa included James Orengo (Ugenya), Achieng’ Oneko (Rarieda), Aloo Ogeka (Muhoroni), Otieno Mak’Onyango (Alego-Usonga), Ouma Muga (Rangwe), Aluoch Polo (Rongo), Clarkson Karan (Nyando) and Otieno K’Opiyo (Kasipul Kabondo).

no room for dissent

This was also the beginning of antagonism between Raila and Orengo, who had been friends for long. Orengo won on a Ford-K ticket but paid the ultimate price when he lost the seat in 2002. He was re-elected in the last election after mending fences with Raila.

During the 1997 elections, NDP bagged 19 out of the 21 seats. Besides Orengo, former Gem MP Joe Donde was the other Non-NDP MP in Parliament from Luoland. He had slipped through because of a nomination mix-up. Another Raila casualty was Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, the Medical Services minister and ODM secretary-general. Nyong’o burnt his fingers when he abandoned NDP for Charity Ngilu’s SDP. This cost him his Kisumu Rural seat in 1997.