Raila must grieve but his troops must not be left rudderless

January 13, 2015 OPINION/NEWS




Joe Khamisi

Towards the end of his biography: ‘Raila Odinga, An Enigma in Kenyan Politics’, Nigerian author Babafemi A. Badejo, dedicates seventeen pages of testimonies to the Kenyan opposition leader that were sourced from interviews with relatives, friends, politicians and former detainees.

Out of all those pages under the headline: ‘Who Is Raila?’, the late Fidel Castro Makarios Odinga, takes only ten lines to talk about his father, in contrast to half pages taken by some, including the late Senator, Otieno Kajwang.

In his tribute, Fidel talks of how much he admired his father; how supportive his father was; that his father was “a revolutionist that is for radical change that would turn the entire process from bad to good,” and mentions his temper and impatience as his two weaknesses.

But the departed Fidel also says this: I think jailing him made him a politician. He is aiming for the top job. 

The italics is what drives Raila in politics. If there is one man who wants the presidency more than anyone else in Kenya, it is Raila Amolo Odinga. In everything he does: He is aiming for the top job.

During eulogies at the funeral over the weekend, speaker after speaker spoke glowingly about the young Raila and how much he was a “gem and glue” to the family; and how he was the bridge between the older politician and the rest of Kenya.

The media even advised Raila to learn a few tricks from his fallen son on how to coexist with others in a multi-tribal society that is Kenya.

But few speakers realised that by talking about the goodness of Fidel, they were also talking about the courage, sacrifice and political skills of Raila, the man who spent the longest period as a political detainee in Kenya.

I didn’t know Fidel and am clueless about his political goals and achievements. What I know from the media is that he was very close to his father and knew much more about what his father was up to than he admits in his testimony. He was also undoubtedly in line to take over the political torch as head of the Odinga political dynasty after the exit of his father.

The loss of Fidel may have robbed the family of an heir apparent. It may have put a spear in Raila’s heart. But it did not dampen Raila’s spirit or scuttle his ambitions. Nor will Fidel’s absence slow him down, If anything, his son’s death has fueled the fire in his belly and jolted his resolve to finish the job his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, began more that six decades ago.

That is why Raila must grieve as he trudges on. He must recover quickly from the heartbreak of losing a son because his troops expect him to lead them in this final half in the election circle. Revolutionists do not grieve, and the reason is one. There is just too much work left to be done.

Even in his twilight years and suffering from terminal diseases, Fidel Odinga’s namesake, Castro, is still calling the shots behind Raul in Cuba.

Raila must be present to lead his party’s by-election campaigns in Homa Bay and Kajiado. While it is obvious the opposition will recapture the seat formerly held by Otieno Kajwang, the wounds inflicted as a result of the party’s controversial candidate selection process are still festering in Homa Bay.

As for the Kajiado seat left vacant after the appointment of Joseph Nkaissery to the Cabinet, the order is tall. That is one place he will need to spend a lot of time hunting for votes.

Then Raila must revive his collapsing referendum drive. He must rekindle the steam by moving around the country to explain clearly why he thinks a referendum is necessary to deal with lingering challenges to our security, devolution system, unemployment and perceived inequalities. So far his message has been vague and unconvincing,

There are also unresolved matters in his party. The current officials of the Orange Democratic Movement, one of the three principal partners in CORD, are in office only on an interim basis. National elections are imperative to bring order and discipline in this divided party.

While doing all this, Raila must heed the advice of Rosemary, his eldest daughter, to drop all conditions when seeking dialogue with the Government. Until now, his tone has been belligerent and undiplomatic.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has made it clear he welcomes dialogue with the opposition although voices are emerging within the ruling party that are against any talks with the opposition, My guess is something will happen in that direction sooner rather than later.

The camaraderie between the two adversaries witnessed during Fidel’s funeral events must be sustained for the long term good of the country. But this will require a high dose of sobriety and earnestness so that the country can heal and approach the next elections as a united country.






Joe Khamisi

Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of the Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.

The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.

Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’, has recently been published and is now on sale.

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In addition to the above books, Joe Khamisi blogs at http://joekhamisi.wordpress.com/http://joekhamisi.blogspot.ca/ and for media enquiries can be reached at [email protected]

(This article is courtesy of Joe Khamisi and was originally published at the above blog on 11th January 2015)


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