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Raila Odinga

OPINION: Raila Amolo Odinga 'Agwambo's End as Patriarch of Kenya's Opposition

Kenya’s politics, seen through tribal lenses, has been dominated by the larger Kikuyu who under its founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta also amassed chunks of land, businesses and other national resources.
posted onAugust 22, 2022

By Ofwono Opondo

This week, William Samoei Arap Ruto, a self-claimed former roadside chicken seller, in a ‘hustler nation’, ended Raila Amolo Odinga a.k.a. Baba’s teary career in elective politics spanning four decades since Daniel Toroitich arap Moi’s iron fist KANU era of 24 years, mostly as a one-party state then fashionable in Africa. Agwambo, in Dholou, means a person who causes unexpected charming turn of events.

When Moi survived the military coup in 1982, Raila was arrested and incarcerated for eight and a half years in and out of Kamiti Maximum Security prison before fleeing into exile. Around that time Kenya and Uganda nearly came into war as Moi accused President Yoweri Museveni of ‘harboring’ Mwa'Kenya dissidents seeking to overthrow him, a charge later proved false.

Kenya’s politics, seen through tribal lenses, has been dominated by the larger Kikuyu who under its founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta also amassed chunks of land, businesses and other national resources.

When Moi took over in 1978, his Kalenjin kiths didn’t waste time catching up on public assets. It looks more like in supporting Raila, retiring president, Uhuru Kenyatta, sought to moderate the political feud among the Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Luo dominant tribes, and as well, Independence hero families of Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, first president and vice president respectively, although has been unsuccessful, leaving ‘Agwambo’ crying foul.

Either President Uhuru failed to read the times that he was no longer popular to dictate terms, or like some conspiracy theorists claim, he undercut Raila in a stratagem where he cleverly asked Ruto to bolt out the Jubilee government as disgruntled and appear an ‘outsider.’

Otherwise, many pundits wonder why Uhuru failed to move the needle in central Kenya in Raila’s favour leaving him with a very miserable performance there.

Ruto reshaped himself as the protest candidate for change against elite privilege and family politics enabling him to encroach into Raila’s traditional strongholds, and weaving alliances with regional kingpins who saw change in him.

Having branded himself a ‘hustler,’ like them, struggling marginally to make ends meet, promise of a bottoms-up economic approach, and demonstrating that it’s possible to rise from the fringes to success.

Now we leave it to Kenya political and judicial systems to resolve their intricate dispute in which four out of seven IEBC Commissioners disagreed with how the final vote tally was done.

It appears that although the grumbling has run for generations since colonial times through brutality, socio-economic deprivation, and toxic ethnicity continue, this time many, especially youths haven’t bent to the hubris.

The older Odinga died in 1994 a dejected man who retreated to his origin in Siaya district where he is buried among his people who are yet to acknowledge the Kikuyu, and now Kalenjin numerical strength, social, economic, and political mobility. Over the years, the Jaluos as represented by the indefatigable Raila are seen as political cry babies who feel unreasonably treated in their country.

Having spent multiple jail terms for treason though never convicted under Moi, Raila came out in 1990 to continue the political fights his father lost, or didn’t conclude. Raila railed against Moi’s regime in  governance battles on Nairobi and other urban streets until multipartysm was restored in 1992 for which he thought he should be rewarded with the presidency, but nay.

During this long colourful political career as prisoner, exile, calculating sellout, opposition leader, and in government, Raila, the former firebrand has lost presidential contest five times, and each time, he has claimed being cheated. 

At 72 in 2017, Raila lost to Uhuru 55, but he thought he was succulent like a fresh tomato from the garden. Now, 77 and christened ‘Baba’ by cronies, Raila has been handed yet another close shave defeat, possibly the final one by Ruto 55, even with Uhuru in tow. It's truly difficult seeing Raila collecting himself up and pacing around again as a presidential candidate in 2027. Having emasculated internal competition, some doubt that for now another Jaluo will fit into Raila’s national stage.

The attempts frame Ruto as a corrupt megalomaniac, floundered and a cold joke is doing rounds that Kenyans especially in central region, don’t fancy leaders talking of ending corruption. Accusations, by some in Raila’s team that Ruto was an admirer or stooge of President Museveni also failed to tick into their ballot box.

From this election, Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza has 159 while Azimio holds a thin line at 162 MPs, while in the Senate, Ruto has 24 to Raila’s 23. So, to govern comfortably, Ruto must lure majority 12 Independent MPs, and some of the 12 Special Nominees who will be premium in political horse-trading and jostling already underway.

Even if not Raila, one would require the urgings from very stubborn ancestors to try again when they’ve been fifth time unlucky. Ruto, the former cheer youth-leader for Moi’s regime, is now reshaping Kenya’s politics having clipped Kenyatta and Jaramogi family dominance as Uhuru and Raila retire with hefty government packages and into their sprawling private business empires across the world.

The writer is the executive director of Uganda Media Centre

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