Raila Odinga: Wikis


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Raila Amollo Odinga

Odinga attending the 2009 World Economic Forum on Africa, June 2009.

Assumed office 
17 April 2008
President Mwai Kibaki
Preceded by Jomo Kenyatta (1963 – 1964)

Born 7 January 1945 (1945-01-07) (age 65)
Maseno, Kenya
Political party ODM
Spouse(s) Ida Odinga (born 1950)
Religion Anglican

Raila Amollo Odinga (born January 7, 1945) is a Kenyan politician, currently serving as the Prime Minister of Kenya in a coalition government. He has served as a Member of Parliament for Langata since 1992, was Minister of Energy from 2001 to 2002, and was Minister of Roads, Public Works and Housing from 2003 to 2005. He was the main opposition candidate in the disputed 2007 presidential election. Following a post-electoral crisis that resulted in the deaths of 1,500 people and the displacement of 600,000 more, Odinga took office as Prime Minister, at the head of a national unity government, in April 2008.

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). Raila is commonly known by his first name due 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 now the current president of Kenya but 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 his native Nyanza province and a considerable mileage in Rift Valley, Western, 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 200 seats in the parliament which makes ODM the party with the majority seats 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 has disputed the results, alleging fraud by the election commission but has refused an election petition before the courts. Independent international observers have since stated that the poll was marred by irregularities on both sides, especially at the final vote tallying stages.[1] Many Kenyans across the country rioted against the announced election results.




Early life

Raila Odinga was born at Maseno Church Missionary Society Hospital, in Maseno, Kisumu District, Nyanza Province on January 7, 1945 to Oginga and Mary Juma Odinga. He went to Kisumu Union Primary School, Maranda Primary and High School where he stayed until 1962. He spent the nxt two years at the Herder Institute, a high school in East Germany [2]. He received a scholarship that in 1965 sent him to the Technical University, Magdeburg (now a part of the University of Magdeburg) in East Germany. In 1970, he graduated with a Diplom degree in Mechanical Engineering. While studiyng in East Berlin, as a Kenyan he was able to visit West Berlin through the Checkpoint Charlie. When visiting West Berlin, he used to buy goods not available in East Berlin and bring them to his friends in East Berlin [3].

On returning to Kenya in 1970, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. 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 [4].


Raila was placed under house arrest for seven months after being suspected of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against President Daniel arap Moi in 1982. Raila was charged with treason and was detained without trial for six years.[5]

A biography released in July 2006 suggested that Raila was more involved in the coup than previously thought. After its publication, some MPs called for Raila to be arrested and charged,[6] 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.[7]. His mother died in 1984, but the prison warders told him about it only two months later [4].

Released on February 6, 1988, he was rearrested in September, 1988 for his involvement with the Kenya Revolutionary Movement (KRM),[8] an underground organisation pressing for multi-party democracy in Kenya, which was then a one-party state.

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.[9] Raila was released on June 21, 1991, and in October, he fled the country to Norway alleging government attempts to assassinate him.[10]

Multi-party politics

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.[11]

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. He lost, and left 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.[11]

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. Since Moi, the president and KANU party chairman, was constitutionally barred from running for a third-term, Raila was thought to be maneuvering for the KANU presidential ticket. In 2002, however, Moi passed over Raila and openly supported Uhuru Kenyatta – a son of Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta. Moi publicly asked Raila and others to support Uhuru as well.[12]

Raila and other KANU members, including Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti and Joseph Kamotho, opposed this step and formed the Rainbow Movement to protest Moi's decision. The Rainbow Movement went on to join the little known Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which later teamed up with the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK), a coalition of several other parties, to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).

Dissent from within

President Kibaki did not appoint Raila Odinga Prime 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.[13]

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.[14]

2007 presidential election

On July 12, 2007, Odinga alleged that the government was withholding identity cards from voters in places supportive of the opposition and that the intended creation of 30 new constituencies was a means by which the government sought to ensure victory in the December 2007 parliamentary election.[15]

In August 2007, the Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya split in two, with Odinga becoming head of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) while the other faction, the ODM-K, was headed by Kalonzo Musyoka.[16] On September 1, 2007, the ODM elected Odinga as its presidential candidate in a National Delegates Conference held at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi. Odinga received 2,656 votes; the only other candidates receiving significant numbers of votes were Musalia Mudavadi with 391 and William Ruto with 368. Earlier, Najib Balala had withdrawn his candidature and endorsed Raila.[17] The defeated candidates expressed their support for Odinga afterward, and Mudavadi was named as his running mate.[18]

Odinga launched his presidential campaign in Uhuru Park in Nairobi on October 6, 2007, which saw a record attendance in this or any other venue in independent Kenya. The police estimated an attendance of close to 50,000.[19]

Following the presidential election held on December 27, the Electoral Commission in controversial circumstances declared Kibaki the winner on December 30, 2007, placing him ahead of Odinga by about 232,000 votes. Other observers also viewed election process as having been manipulated in order to ensure victory for Kibaki. Further, Jeffrey Sachs (Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Special Advisor to former UN Secretary General) faulted the United States' approach to the post-election crisis and recommended an independent recount of the vote[20].

Odinga accused Kibaki of fraud, and widespread violence broke out in the country.[21] Following two months of unrest, a deal between Odinga and Kibaki, which provided for power-sharing and the creation of the post of Prime Minister, was signed in February 2008; it was brokered by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Odinga was sworn in as Prime Minister, along with the power-sharing Cabinet, on April 17, 2008. Previously the post of Prime Minister had not existed since 1964, when it was briefly held by Jomo Kenyatta following independence; Odinga is thus the second person in Kenya's history to hold the position.[22]

Political role

According his website, Raila lists himself as a social democrat,[23] thus distancing himself from his late father, who was openly socialist. His party, the LDP, is affiliated to the Liberal International.

Raila Odinga gets support especially among third largest ethnic base in Kenya, the Luo. A Gallup/USA poll taken in September 2008 found him to have an 85 percent approval rate.[24]

Further to this, there have been recent calls from the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Martha Karua, for Raila to answer allegations regarding impropriety in the purchase and subsequent sale of land on the Kisumu Molasses Plant.[25]

Personal life

Baptised as an Anglican in his youth[26] Odinga became a Born-Again Christian[27] after he had been baptised in Nairobi by David Owuor, a man known for being a self-proclaimed prophet known for his doomsday warnings particularly those were he foretold of half of Nairobi being destroyed in a massive earthquake, which never happened, of the National Repentance and Holiness Ministry on Sunday 3rd of May 2009, Odinga had previously announced that he had been born again on stage alongside David Owuor during a mass prayer meeting in the Rift Valley town of Nakuru in April 2009 and a handful of journalists and evangelical Christians were invited to attend Odinga's baptism ceremony at a private residence in Nairobi.

Odinga is married to Ida Odinga (born Ida Anyango Oyoo). They live in Nairobi (but have a second home at Opoda Farm, Bondo District). They have four children—two sons and two daughters: Fidel (born 1973), Rosemary (1977), Raila Jr (1979) and Winnie (1990) [4]. Fidel is named after Fidel Castro[28] and Winnie after Winnie Mandela. Winnie is currently studying Political Science at Drexel University of Philadelphia, PA.[28]

In a January 2008 BBC interview, Odinga asserted that he was the first cousin of U.S. president Barack Obama through Obama's father.[29] However, Barack Obama's paternal uncle denied any direct relation to Odinga, stating "Odinga's mother came from this area, so it is normal for us to talk about cousins. But he is not a blood relative."[30] Obama's father came from the same Luo community as Odinga. [29]

He briefly played soccer for Luo Union[28] (later known as Re-Union) as a midfielder. Nowadays he owns several cars, including a Jaguar and a Hummer [4].


  1. ^ "Observers criticize poll standards", Daily Nation, January 18 2008.
  2. ^ Daily Nation, December 9, 2007: aila Odinga: I’m the bridge
  3. ^ Newsweek Web Exclusive, January 22, 2008: The Man Who Would Be President
  4. ^ a b c d x
  5. ^ Human rights Watch, 1992: Kenya: Human Rights Developments
  6. ^ The Standard, July 17, 2006: ’82 coup: Arrest Raila, say MPs
  7. ^ The Standard, July 21, 2006: Why A-G won’t charge Raila
  8. ^ University of Pennsylvania, African Studies Centre, East Africa Living Encyclopedia: Kenya: IRIN Election Briefing, 12/13/97
  9. ^ University of Pennsylvania, African Studies Centre, East Africa Living Encyclopedia: Kenya - History
  10. ^ The Standard, July 16, 2006: Day Raila fled disguised as priest
  11. ^ a b Center for Multiparty Democracy: Politics and Parliamentarians in Kenya 1944-2007
  12. ^ BBC News, September 16, 2002: Anti-Moi alliance emerging
  13. ^ BBC News, September 30, 2003: Uproar over Kenya leader's decree
  14. ^ BBC News, January 10, 2006: Kenyan opponent 'fears for life'
  15. ^ David Schlesinger and Barry Moody, "Presidential hopeful doubts free, fair polls", Reuters (IOL), July 13, 2007.
  16. ^ Peter Clottey, "Kenya's Opposition Split Brightens Kibaki's Second Term Bid", VOA News, August 16, 2007.
  17. ^ "Kenya: It's Raila for President", The Standard, September 1, 2007.
  18. ^ Maina Muiruri, "ODM ‘pentagon’ promises to keep the team intact", The Standard (Kenya), September 2, 2007.
  19. ^ Anthony Kaikai, "ODM party launches its Presidential campaigns", Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, October 6, 2007.
  20. ^ Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan
  21. ^ "Kibaki re-elected Kenyan president: official results", AFP (abc.net.au), December 31, 2007.
  22. ^ Eric Ombok, "Kenya's Raila Odinga Sworn in as Prime Minister, Ending Crisis", Bloomberg.com, April 17, 2008.
  23. ^ Raila Odinga website Interview
  24. ^ Kibaki, Odinga lead recovery: News24: Africa: News
  25. ^ The Standard, October 1, 2006: Minister: No sacred cows in war on graft
  26. ^ The Standard, November 5, 2007: ODM promises smooth transition if it wins
  27. ^ BBC News - 'Doomsday' man baptises Kenya PM
  28. ^ a b c Daily Nation, June 2, 2001 The Price of being Raila Odinga's wife
  29. ^ a b Odinga says Obama is his cousin, BBC News, 1/8/08.
  30. ^ Some Kenyans forget crisis to root for Obama, Reuters, 1/8/08.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Jomo Kenyatta
1963 – 1964
Prime Minister of Kenya
Preceded by
Philip Leakey
Member of the National Assembly of Kenya for Langata


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