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Ofwono Opondo

Baba Raila Amolo Odinga: The Old-age Champagne Revolution

The urbanites especially from Nairobi suburbs that were for decades pro-Raila bastion and political machinery shifted during last year’s election to Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza camp, leaving Raila with mostly Kisumu and Siaya districts in western Kenya to be seen for what they really are as tribal tufts. 
posted onMarch 27, 2023
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By Ofwono Opondo

The ongoing saber-rattling characterized by finger and tongue-wagging, and violent street protests led by Raila Odinga against what he calls an ‘illegitimate’ government of President William Samoei Arap Ruto is shocking, uncalled for, and a journey into futility that could drag Kenya to undesirable peril. It’s more like the 2011-16 episodes in Uganda led by the now diminished Col. (rtd) DR Warren Smith Kizza Besigye Kifefe, which took him and his erstwhile outfit FDC to nowhere.

BABA Raila Amolo Odinga, 78, having lost his presidential bid five times-1997, 2007, 2013, 2017, and 2022 by a razor-thin margin to Ruto, was this week back on the streets fighting alongside hooligans vowing to seize state power through an insurrection which he cleverly dubbed “mass action.” He fell, and with it in many people’s view, his own credibility for seeking to drag Kenya down the political peril.

Crying foul over the electoral loss, Raila is trying to latch like a drowning person on the economic woes of inflation, business distress and rising high cost of living in Kenyan to present himself through political demagoguery as the saviour from outside frontiers when he’s actually old-age champagne. For close to forty years Raila has enjoyed light through selling blackmail, fear and violence which shouldn’t be accepted in a democratic state however nascent it may be.

Like our own four-time presidential loser, Kizza Besigye, who has loudly cried foul, Raila has been an indefatigable politician, mostly in opposition since his younger days when he spent years in prolonged detention during Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi’s one-party rule. Having opted to challenge last year’s presidential election results in the Kenya Supreme Court, and lost, Raila has no valid reason to now turn to violent and destructive street protests as a means to get what the court didn’t grant him especially if he believes in constitutionalism, rule of law, civilized politics and basic common sense. 

During the dying days of Moi rule, 1992-2002, Raila engaged in street political fights to restore multiparty politics which he had hoped would bestow on him the presidency his father and former vice president of Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga lost to Jomo Kenyatta in their bitter tribal fights since Kenya’s independence from British brutal colonial rule in 1963. The bitterness of loss is understandable. But by this cry, Raila is mostly seeking to recreate his diminishing electoral fortunes and generate gullible public sympathy as a person and family whose poisoned chalice has been unfairly taken away by a system stacked against them. 

As a retiring president, Uhuru Kenyatta sought to moderate the political feud among Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Luo dominant tribes, and independence hero families of Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga but miserably failed to deliver his own central region vote to Raila that saw him a sell-out. Now apparently seething in anger and frustration, Uhuru and Raila seem not to want to let go, and matters aren’t being helped much by a boisterous Ruto and his arguably rough vice president Geoffrey Rigathi Gachagua who is talking above everyone.

While Raila’s last two losses have been razor-thin, the swathe of dislike, call it to hate, points to a huge electoral constituency he’s unlikely to convince any time soon. And, after more than three decades of abrasive politics, Raila hasn’t appreciated that perhaps has overstayed the welcome. Evidently, the loud silence of Azimio la Umoja MPs, Senators, and Country Governors shows that many are intimidated by Raila’s boisterous political style. They’re afraid to speak their minds and seem to have left him to travel through the muddled waters. The urbanites especially from Nairobi suburbs that were for decades pro-Raila bastion and political machinery shifted during last year’s election to Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza camp, leaving Raila with mostly Kisumu and Siaya districts in western Kenya to be seen for what they really are as tribal tufts. 

And lest we forget, throughout his political career spanning forty years, Raila has exploited tribal cleavages, political blackmail, and fear-mongering to reign supreme which shouldn’t be acceptable in a democratic country, which Raila says Kenya is like no other country in the region. Like Besigye, Raila is trying to impress on Kenyans and possibly the world that violent insurrection is another legitimate option for changing an elected government. The so-called internationally recognized audit of the election results is a red herring that deserves a sneer. Kenyans ought to tell Raila that his time maybe indeed up.

The writer is the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre

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