Raila’s journey through political minefields


By Blamuel Njururi, Kenya Confidential Editor-in-Chief – Nairobi, March 10, 2017

Raila has traveled through minefields of political hazards but always emerges apparently unscathed without any scars or blemishes

Former Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga has ensnared himself in the worst self-made political trap ever. The Swahili folk would say amejinasa na mtego wake mwenyewe.

In his long political career Raila cannot be remembered for any notable development-related project or Act of Parliament but crafty political traps and other power-seeking contraptions that have miserably failed. But he never tires.

Raila was thrust into national politics limelight by the abortive August 1, 1982 military coup attributed to junior officers of the Kenya Air Force (KAF). Since August 1, 1982 alleged attempt to seize power for which he was detained without trial by Dictator Daniel arap Moi, Raila has traveled through minefields of political hazards but always emerges apparently unscathed without any scars or blemishes. He has also made a career of losing presidential races two of which he claims were “stolen”.

In a four-part series, Kenya Confidential takes you through Raila’s political life punctuated by immense power greed, endless Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) intended to place him strategically as next of kin to inherit State House tenancy. Read on……

In independent Kenya’s history when the country has been plunged into upheaval and political crises in which more than 1,000 lives have been lost and billions of shillings in damage to property incurred, one politician has been at the epicenter of the national calamities.

That politician is Raila Amolo Odinga.

On August 1, 1982, Kenyans woke up to find the capital city of Nairobi a battleground. Military caliber gunfire rang out all over the city as the country reverberated with the morning news that the military had toppled Daniel arap Moi in barely the fourth year of his Presidency. Caught in a horrific orgy of bloodletting, no one was safe. The country hung on the brink of collapse for a whole week.

The key coup plotters were named as Kenya Air Force Private Hezekiah Ochuka, leader of the pustch, Okumu Oteyo, Ogidi Obuon, Opiyo Samuel, Obuon Richard, Odera Fenwick, Corporal Ombok, and Captain Agola.

Kenyans would later learn that two prominent civilians associated with the coup were Raila Amolo Odinga and Patrick Sumba, a fact Raila acknowledges in his official biography, Raila Odinga, An Enigma in Kenyan Politics.

However, in his autobiography with Sarah Elderkin, Flame of Freedom, the man who has twice come close to leaving freedom in flames in Kenya, becomes suddenly coy about his role in the events of the attempted coup. Unlike in the Babafemi book seven years earlier, there is no gloating about the coup, no wearing of the deadly event as a badge of courage in the Elderkin book; instead, he engages in a massive duck-and-dodge manoeuvre and in the process seriously insults Kenyans.

Saying that Kenyans still do not enjoy freedom of speech and of thought, Raila says that the country is not ready for the truth about August 1, 1982, and his and his father’s part in it. “I am going to write that chapter some other time”, Raila told a Daily Nation interviewer after the launch of Flame of Freedom.

Time is now for Raila Amolo Odinga’s full disclosure before he makes another effort to gain State House tenancy in yet another month of August exactly a week after the August 1, 1982 bloodbath.

The Moi regime in 1982 promptly charged him with treason, a hanging offence at the time, but never tried him for the coup, instead detaining him without trial on at least three occasions for a total of nine years.

The aftermath of August 1, 1982, was between 1,500 and 2,500 of innocent Kenyans dead. President Moi put the figure of the dead at 1,500 and is on record as saying Raila was never remorseful over the deaths. Hundreds of women were raped, with Asian women being targeted in the Ngara and Parklands areas of the city. It was reliably reported at the time that some wives, daughters and sisters of Asian families were murdered by their male relatives for having been defiled and bringing dishonour to their families and castes. Thousands of people of all races and many nationalities were injured and maimed.

Billions of shillings worth of damage to property was inflicted upon the business community in the space of a single Sunday morning when elements of the Kenya Air Force behind the abortive coup invaded the City of Nairobi central business district and led the urban poor on a massive looting spree that saw hundreds of shops broken into and pillaged.

Moi was found in a maize plantation in Kabarak and was driven to Nairobi’s State House in a light armoured vehicle to announce that he was still the Head of State. But Kenyans did not know Moi was undergoing a political transformation that was to drastically change the face of the military and shape the future of Kenyan politics.

It was anyone’s guess at that time what was going on in Moi’s mind. Earlier on, a shaken Moi had pleaded with the military group led by (then) Brigadier Joseph Musomba not to take him away saying, “kama ni kuua ua hapa” (if it is killing, do it here), apparently unaware that the soldiers had gone to rescue him.

By Noon, the counter-coup was at an advanced stage and the Moi regime survived another 20 years to impose a penance of penury, a sanction of national poverty and mass suffering and misery.

Raila has in his authorised biography admitted to his having been involved in the 1982 coup attempt. The attempt was an ill-planned and amateurish plot led by some young hotheads in the Air Force and their civilian associates, who sought to rule over the Kenyan people by brute force. Not surprising a majority of young KAF and military victims were from Raila’s Luo community.

Experience in Africa and elsewhere has shown that military governments are the worst possible kind of administration and their overall record is one of brutality and incompetence that surpass even the most discredited civilian governments. Military coups are all about killing and taking over power by martial and unconstitutional means.

In hindsight, all this implies that Raila was prepared to kill to obtain political power as long ago as 1982. Anybody who does not think this is serious should face the Kenyan mother who had a son in the regular Armed Forces and one in the Air Force, or whose daughter was raped in the ensuing chaos. Those who plan and execute coups have such contempt for the voter that they do not think it necessary to obtain their consent in competitive elections. They opt for the bullet, not the ballot!

At the time the coup attempt was carried out, Moi had ruled for just four years, and his style at this time was laid back and non-confrontational. There were not even any political detainees in this country. But the plotters announced on radio that morning that “the long dictatorial rule” of President Moi had come to an end!

On December 31, 2007, when President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the Presidential race, all and hell broke loose. Kenyans woke up to find their country burning. Raila’s ODM denounced the election results, declined to challenge the results in court and called on its supporters to engage in “mass action” and “civil disobedience” and take to the streets in their millions.

The ODM adherents unleashed an orgy of violence and destruction never witnessed in Kenya since Independence, not even during the 1982 coup attempt, when the mayhem was confined to only Nairobi and Nanyuki, where the KAF has its biggest base. No amount of terror was spared, they recoiled from no evil. Their desire to destroy was overwhelming. Killing to them was a joyous orgy. And this drama of death and destruction had as its incidental music the deadly chants of Haki Yetu (We want our Justice) and “No Raila, No Peace!” Retaliatory rag-tag army of Muungiki paid the mass-action troops with the same coin of violence plunging Kenya into the darkest hour of its post-independence history.

Evidence in the public domain shows that the violence was not a spontaneous reaction to a rigged election. The Orange alliance of that time, as some of its own evidence now shows, painstakingly planned the pre-election and post-election mayhem, including ethnic cleansing and the refusal to accept “unfavourable” Presidential election results three months before the General Election. That is what the controversial NASA vote tally is intended to trigger should results turn tables against it.

In an executive confidential brief entitled “Positioning and marketing of the ODM and the People’s President, Hon. Raila A. Odinga”, in 2007, ODM put in place an elaborate campaign strategy that was implemented to the letter leading to 2008 bloodbath.

Footnote: Dear Kenyans do not plunge our motherland into another human carnage and billions-of-shillings-worth of economic destruction come August 8th General Election.