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From resistance movement leader to AU envoy, Raila remains mysterious



Raila Odinga remains a mysterious man in Kenyan politics, hence his nickname ‘Agwambo’.

The ODM boss and veteran Opposition leader, commonly known as ‘Baba’, draws a chunk of his support from various regions in Kenya.

The son of Kenya’s first vice president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga is also known by other nicknames like ‘Tinga” – tractor.

He is credited with the fight for democracy in Kenya notably in the clamour for multi-party and the journey to the current Constitution. 

Despite his failed bids to win the presidency in 1997, 2007, 2013, and 2017, Raila remains a towering figure in Kenyan politics.

His name and influence remains formidable, even though he has also elicited passionate loathing and enmity in some quarters.

Raila is seen by many Kenyans as a forward-thinking and strategic leader.

He was the main opposition candidate in the 2007 presidential election, running against incumbent Mwai Kibaki.

Following a truce to end the violence which erupted after the said election, he was appointed Prime Minister in April 2008.

This was in a power-sharing deal with Mwai Kibaki. The role saw him serve as supervisor and coordinator of the coalition government. 

In the subsequent presidential election, he came second against Uhuru Kenyatta, garnering 5,340,546 votes, which represented 43.28% of the total votes cast.

He made another run for the presidency in August 2017, still against Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Party) and lost after Wafula Chebukati’s IEBC declared Uhuru as the winner with 54% of the votes cast to Raila’s 43%.

This outcome was eventually annulled by the Supreme Court on September 1, 2017, following findings that the election was marred by “illegalities and irregularities”.

A subsequent fresh election ordered by the court was won by Uhuru Kenyatta after the Raila-led NASA coalition declined to participate citing inadequate reforms within the IEBC.

Following the declaration of Uhuru as president, Raila’s NASA brigade formulated a revolutionary movement dubbed the National Resistance Movement (NRM-Kenya).

The entity was to spearhead a revolution against Uhuru on grounds his presidency was ‘illegitimate’. 

The brigade later told its supporters to boycott newspapers, TV stations, products and services, of companies believed to have backed Jubilee in the 2017 vote. 

“We start a battle for electoral justice so that we have credible elections in this country,” he told NASA backers in call for them to boycott the repeat presidential election that was ordered by the Supreme Court. 

“We call on Kenyans who love democracy to hold vigils and prayers and stay away from polling stations. We are aware that they plan to massacre our people. Let us deny them that chance.”

Read: Raila transforms NASA into resistance movement, plans goods boycott

In the push for electoral reforms after the boycott of the repeat election, Raila activated the boycott of products from corporations he claimed were part of the August election rigging scheme.

Mobile service provider Safaricom, Haco Industries, Bidco, and Uhuru’s Brookside, were among the entities that were targetted in the drive. 

The goal – ” to bring the institutions to their knees” – followed Raila’s announcement that the National Super Alliance had changed into a resistance movement.

“Big corporations are part in efforts to kill democracy in Kenya. We have the power and if they want to stifle our democracy, we can retaliate,” Raila told journalists then. 

More: Raila threatens boycott of Safaricom, corporations linked to poll rigging

See: NASA MPs target Safaricom, Bidco, Brookside in economic boycott

He said at least 250 of his supporters were killed, especially in Nasa strongholds of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya and parts of Nairobi. NASA even threatened to secede and form a republic ‘where the right to vote and elect a president is guaranteed’. 

NASA head of strategy David Ndii said the coalition is well prepared for mass action and secession. “If change cannot come through the ballot, it will come through the bullet.”

Part of the resistance was to be driven by “People’s Assemblies”. The same were to be established in NASA leaning counties. A number of county assemblies ratified the move. 

It was through these that later on January 30, the opposition brigade embarked on a vigorous plan to swear-in Raila as the People’s president.

Former Attorney General Githu Muigai warned that Raila would be charged with treason if he proceeded with the oathing plan. The punishment for treason is death. 

But Raila defied the threats, wore a white outfit and a black cap and proceeded with oath. He swore by the Bible and signed documents to the effect of assuming his role as the People’s President. 

“I, Raila Amollo Odinga, do swear that I will protect the nation as the people’s president.. that I will be faithful … so help me God,” he declared to thousands of his followers at Uhuru Park in Nairobi.

The ecstatic supporters who went to the venue from as early as 6am cheered, danced and blew whistles during the proceedings. The police declared the meeting illegal but later withdrew. 

Raila’s oath was administered by Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang and former Nairobi governor candidate Miguna Miguna.

Read: Raila ‘sworn-in’ as people’s president, Kalonzo absent

A day later, Kajwang was arrested in a police crackdown on individuals linked to administering the oath.

“I have just been arrested by eright Flying Squad policemen. If my arrest and prosecution will be the ultimate price I must pay for my role in Swearing of the People’s President, then I am ready,” he said.

In February, self-proclaimed NRMKe General Miguna Miguna was also dramatically arrested at his Runda home.

Miguna would be detained in various police stations before being deported to Canada where he is currently based.

However, the High Court in a recent ruling declared Miguna is a Kenyan citizen and ordered state to pay a Sh7 million as compensation for violating his rights.

Read: The ‘movie script’ of general Miguna’s deportation after Raila oath

See: State justified to deport Miguna Miguna, says former aide to Raila

Before the dust of Miguna’s deportation settled, Raila and Uhuru surprised Kenyans, especially their ardent supporters, with their truce ending the 2017 poll tussle. 

The March 9 handshake (as it would be popularised) at Harambee House saw an end to the hostilities pitting pro-change agents and supporters of the status quo. 

Uhuru noted the meeting with Raila would be key to ending the political differences that triggers inter-communal conflicts in Wajir, West Pokot, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties. 

Read: New dawn: Uhuru and Raila resolve to work together to heal Kenya

Also read: Uhuru, Raila enter pact to end ethnic tension and heal wounds

Days later, a 14-member advisory committee was formed to steer the country to lasting peace under the Building Bridges initiative.

The team was gazetted, hence, cementing the legal provision that would make its resolutions, expected in a year effective May, legally binding.

Read: Handshake committee gazetted, given a year to present report

The handshake deal would later see the AU appoint Raila as the High Representative for Infrastructure Development.

Chairperson Moussa Mahamat said the decision was part of the African Union’s drive to expedite the integration of the continent through infrastructure.

Read: Uhuru congratulates Raila for AU appointment

See: Raila’s AU job stirs fear over his future

More handshake gains followed when the two, Uhuru and Raila, were in October with Black History Month, African Peace Award 2018.

The award ceremony took place at the British House of Parliament, Westminster Palace in the UK on October 18.

Since the March 9 truce, the two leaders have been speaking in one voice, especially on the fight against corruption and unity.

Though they say the journey to hand shake is bitter and painful, they are ready to tread on that route to leave a legacy that will be remembered in years to come.

Recently, Raila hosted Uhuru at his Bondo home. The president also presided over a series of development activities in Kisumu.

They were also conferred honorary degrees at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University citing their efforts to unite Kenyans.

Read: Uhuru, Raila conferred honorary degrees over handshake

The unity has also seen Deputy President William Ruto publicly announce an end to his political rivalry with Raila. He vowed to support the handshake deal.

Related: Uhuru hints at referendum to share power

Also see: ‘Handshake not about 2022’: Raila narrates how Uhuru reached out

Raila is regarded among the leaders who have fought for Kenya since independence, he has gone against odds just to ensure that Kenya is safe and a good place for its citizens to live.

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