Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga

Infobox Prime Minister
name = Raila Amollo Odinga

imagesize = 200px
order = Prime Minister of Kenya
president = Mwai Kibaki
Vice = Kalonzo Musyoka
term_start = 17 April 2008
predecessor = Jomo Kenyatta (1963 – 1964)
birth_date = birth date and age|1945|01|07|df=y
birth_place = Maseno, Kenya
party = ODM

Raila Amollo Odinga (born January 7, 1945) is a Kenyan politician, currently serving as the Prime Minister of Kenya with president Mwai Kibaki 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; his brother, Oburu Odinga, is also currently an 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. His party, ODM, got 99 seats in the parliament with Kibaki's, its affiliates and other opposition parties managing 101 seats. The other presidential candidate, Kalonzo Musyoka, had a strong following only in his Ukambani area of Eastern province.

On December 30, 2007, the chairman of the Kenyan election commission controversially declared Raila's opponent, incumbent president Kibaki, the winner of the presidential election by a margin of about 230,000 votes. Raila has challenged 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. [ [http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/nmgcontententry.asp?category_id=1&newsid=114851 "Observers criticize poll standards"] , Daily Nation, January 18 2008. ] Many Kenyans across the country protested against the announced election results.


Early life

Raila Odinga was born in Maseno, Kisumu District, Nyanza Province on January 7, 1945. 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 degree in Mechanical Engineering.

On returning to Kenya, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He eventually left the university to join politics. In 1975, he was appointed Deputy Director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards, a post he held until his 1982 detention.


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. [ Human rights Watch, 1992: [http://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/WR92/AFW-03.htm Kenya: Human Rights Developments] ]

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, [The Standard, July 17, 2006: [http://www.eastandard.net/archives/cl/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1143955436 ’82 coup: Arrest Raila, say MPs] ] 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. [ The Standard, July 21, 2006: [http://www.eastandard.net/archives/cl/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1143955662 Why A-G won’t charge Raila] ]

Released on February 6th, 1988, he was rearrested in September, 1988 for his involvement with the Kenya Revolutionary Movement (KRM), [ University of Pennsylvania, African Studies Centre, East Africa Living Encyclopedia: [http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Hornet/irin_121397.html Kenya: IRIN Election Briefing, 12/13/97] ] an underground organisation pressing for multi-party democracy in Kenya, which was then a one-party state.

Raila was released on June 12th, 1989, only to be incarcerated again on July 5th, 1990, together with Kenneth Matiba, and former Nairobi Mayor Charles Rubia. [ University of Pennsylvania, African Studies Centre, East Africa Living Encyclopedia: [http://www.africa.upenn.edu/NEH/khistory.htm Kenya - History] ] Raila was released on June 21st, 1991, and in October, he fled the country to Norway alleging government attempts to assassinate him. [ The Standard, July 16, 2006: [http://www.eastandard.net/archives/sunday/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1143955395&date=19/07/2006 Day Raila fled disguised as priest] ]

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. Center for Multiparty Democracy: [http://www.cmd.or.ke/images/Politics%20and%20Paliamenterians%20in%20Kenya.pdf Politics and Parliamentarians in Kenya 1944-2007] ]

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.

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. [ BBC News, September 16, 2002: [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2261085.stm Anti-Moi alliance emerging] ]

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).

It is widely believed that LDP signed a memorandum of understanding with NAK, which provided for a prime ministerial position for the LDP, as well as a 50-50 split of cabinet seats between the LDP and NAK after the elections. However,there is no substantial evidence to support the matter and the Kibaki government has remained silent on the issue.Fact|date=September 2008

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. [ BBC News, September 30, 2003: [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3356431.stm Uproar over Kenya leader's decree] ]

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. [ BBC News, January 10, 2006: [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4599834.stm Kenyan opponent 'fears for life'] ]

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. [ David Schlesinger and Barry Moody, [http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=87&art_id=nw20070713104933431C315734 "Presidential hopeful doubts free, fair polls"] , Reuters ("IOL"), July 13, 2007. ]

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. [Peter Clottey, [http://www.voanews.com/english/Africa/2007-08-16-voa1.cfm "Kenya's Opposition Split Brightens Kibaki's Second Term Bid"] , VOA News, August 16, 2007. ] 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. [ [http://eastandard.net/archives/cl/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1143973896&date=1/9/2007 "Kenya: It's Raila for President"] , "The Standard", September 1, 2007. ] The defeated candidates expressed their support for Odinga afterward, and Mudavadi was named as his running mate. [ Maina Muiruri, [http://www.eastandard.net/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1143973907 "ODM ‘pentagon’ promises to keep the team intact"] , "The Standard" (Kenya), September 2, 2007. ]

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. [ Anthony Kaikai, [http://www.kbc.co.ke/story.asp?ID=45547 "ODM party launches its Presidential campaigns"] , Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, October 6, 2007. ]

Following the presidential election held on December 27, the Electoral Commission in controversial circumstances declared Kibaki the winner on December 30 2007, despite widespread evidence of electoral malpractices, 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. Notably, and the reputable US foundation, International Republican Institute (IRI) is said to have conducted an exit poll that indicated that Raila had won by 8%, though the IRI has never released the report. Other observers base their claims on the fact that while Raila's party had 99 members of parliament elected, Kibaki's had 43, with many of his former cabinet ministers being roundly defeated, at the end of the elections, and so they posit that it is unlikely for people to have voted overwhelmingly for ODM members of parliament, and still voted for Kibaki as President. In addition, the European Union observers reported that they were barred from the tallying room at the Electoral Commission of Kenya command centre when the allegations of manipulation of the figures and acceptance of incomplete election tally forms by the ECK were being made. They also reported that the ECK commissioners and other officials were remarkably unwilling to acknowledge and address electoral malpractices that the EU observers and others pointed out to them. 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 [ [http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/?page=2008%5C01%5C25%5Cstory_25-1-2008_pg3_4 Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan ] ] .

Odinga accused Kibaki of fraud, and widespread violence broke out in the country. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/31/2129125.htm?section=world "Kibaki re-elected Kenyan president: official results"] , AFP (abc.net.au), December 31, 2007. ] 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. [Eric Ombok, [http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=abAJ_3lpr8WA&refer=home "Kenya's Raila Odinga Sworn in as Prime Minister, Ending Crisis"] , Bloomberg.com, April 17, 2008.]

Political role

According his website, Raila lists himself as a social democrat, [ Raila Odinga website [http://www.raila2007.com/cms2/index.php?id=72 Interview] ] thus distancing himself from his late father, who was openly socialist. His party, the LDP, is affiliated to the Liberal International.

Raila Odinga gets noticeable support from all over the country, especially among third largest ethnic base in Kenya, the Luo. He is seen as an effective mobilizer of grassroots support.

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. [ October 1, 2006: [http://www.eastandard.net/archives/cl/hm_news/news.php?articleid=1143958977 Minister: No sacred cows in war on graft] ]


In 2007 Raila Odinga was rumoured to have signed a secret memorandum of understanding with the National Muslim Leaders Forum, [ [http://voanews.com/english/archive/2007-11/2007-11-09-voa4.cfm Kenyan Opposition Leader Under Fire for Signing a Pact and Denying it] VOA News ] NAMLEF. Kenyan Muslim leaders denied that the MOU promised to introduce Sharia for Muslims if it won elections, but said its deal with the Orange Democratic Movement was to end the current discrimination against Muslims. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7115387.stm Kenyan Muslims deny Sharia claims] BBC ] It must however be noted that Muslims in Kenya are permitted by the constitution to practice Sharia law. They have Muslim courts known as Kadhi Courts which may minister justice in cases that involve Muslims who wish to follow sharia law. They may however not pass judgment in cases of murder or give death sentences.Fact|date=September 2008

Personal life

Raila Odinga is of the Anglican faith [ The Standard, November 5, 2007: [http://eastandard.net/news/?id=1143977004 ODM promises smooth transition if it wins] ] and is married to Ida Odinga (born Ida Anyango Oyoo). They live in Nairobi (but has a second home in Bondo District) with their four children—two sons and two daughters. His oldest son, Fidel, is named after Fidel CastroDaily Nation, June 2, 2001 [http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/02062001/Features/Feature.html The Price of being Raila Odinga's wife] ] and their youngest child, Winnie, is named after Winnie Mandela.b]

In a January 2008 interview, Odinga suggested that he was the first cousin of American Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama through Senator Obama's father. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7176683.stm Odinga says Obama is his cousin] , BBC News, 1/8/08.] However, Barack Obama's paternal uncle Said Obama has 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." [http://africa.reuters.com/wire/news/usnL08727241.html Some Kenyans forget crisis to root for Obama] , Reuters, 1/8/08.] Obama's father belonged to the same Luo tribe as Odinga.

During the last weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign, some journalists, such as author Jerome Corsi, have attempted to link Odinga to Obama, claiming the democratic nominee "made a pact" with the controversial Kenyan. This claim is considered to be unsubstantiated. [Media Matters, 10/10/2008: [http://mediamatters.org/items/200810100023 On Cunningham's radio show, Corsi touted dubious "documents" he claims will "prove" Obama "made a pact" with Odinga] ]

He briefly played soccer for Luo Unionb] (later known as Re-Union) as a midfielder.


External links

* [http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke/government/prime_minister.htm www.statehousekenya.go.ke - Office of the Prime Minister]
* [http://www.raila2007.com Raila Odinga - official website]
* [http://www.voteraila.com Vote Raila - Campaign website]
* [http://kenya740.tripod.com/raila.html Raila Odinga political biography]
* [http://www.parliament.go.ke/MPs/members_odinga_r.php Kenya Parliament profile]
* [http://www.601tv.com/ezine/613.php An Audience with Raila - (video - London Sep 7th 2007)]
* [http://www.afroarticles.com/article-dashboard/Article/An-open-letter-to-Hon--Raila-Amolo-Odinga/60185 An open letter to Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga] by Jerry Okungu, Posted On: 2007-11-28

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