Oginga Odinga, nationalist, Pan-Africanist and long-time Kenyan opposition leader. He is an uncle of US president Barack Obama.
He later served as Kenya's first Vice-President, and thereafter as opposition leader. Odinga's son Raila Odinga is the former Prime Minister, and the current opposition leader in Kenya; another son, Oburu Odinga, is the former Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Finance.
Oginga Odinga whose nephew is US president Barack Obama had it all to became a president of Kenya after his successful fight against British imperialism but had an unfortunate luck to meet a formidable Pan-Africanist and fellow Luo tribesman Tom Mboya and Kikuyu`s Jomo Kenyatta thereby dashing his hope of being the first president of Kenya and also never becoming a president until his death. In his frustration for not being president Oginga Odinga argued that the people of a nominally free Kenya had in fact simply exchanged one form of oppression for another in post-Colonial Africa, and that the continent’s true ideal of freedom was still a long time coming.
Odinga is credited for fighting against grabbing of public land and amassing wealth at the expense of the Wanainchi so hard until his death. In his autobiography entitled: Not Yet Uhuru in 1967 [Odinga, 1967] Jaramogi Odinga told a story of the implications of neo-colonialism and
what it meant for the Wanainchi, which enlightened many Africans about the fact that Uhuru was far from having been won and realised.
Jaramogi Odinga was not only a progressive nationalist, he was also an internationalist who believed in the principle of neutrality and non-alignment of the countries of the South that had been colonised by the European colonial powers. He visited several Asian countries as well as the Soviet Union and countries in Eastern Europe to prove the point that Kenya and Africa should avoid the continued subjugation of the western imperialist countries, which had dominated and exploited the African countries. Out of these contacts, Jaramogi Odinga was able to raise resources for Kenya that built the Lumumba Institute for the ideological development of the young Kenyans as well as the New Nyanza Hospital in Kisumu.
These achievements showed Jaramogi Odinga to be a man of vision. But he was not just a visionary. He was an active advocate and participant in the creation of institutions and organisations that constituted what I call
the “JARAMOGI OGINGA ODINGA MODEL FOR SELF-RELIANCE AND SELF-EMPOWERMENT”. He believed that such institutions, if replicated across the whole country, could have been the basis of a self-reliant Kenya.
Raila Odinga, former prime minister of Kenya and son of former vice president Oginga Odinga, holding a baby
Professor Atieno Odhiambo’;s assessment of Odinga’s legacy which he arrives at after a careful analysis of his contributions: "Here is a man who sought to make his country free. That vision guided his economic and political endeavours. In so far as Kenya is free from colonialism and is actively seeking its Second Independence, it can be safely stated that history will judge Jaramogi Oginga Odinga kindly as a man who decided early in his life’s ambition, namely, the mental. Religious, economic and political freedom of his country and as a man who kept his faith in the people- the “Wanainchi wa Kawaida [Atieno Odhiambo, 1997:33]."
Atieno Odhiambo adds that Odinga’s problem with the Kenyan state was over the issue of equity, about social responsibility and about social justice- “a goal he would have pursued along his compatriots” if he had
been left to serve his people in government.
Professor Ali Mazrui Mazrui also observed that for Odinga, the struggle for real Uhuru was not a completed business but a ‘work in progress.’ Therefore Odinga’s message and legacy to the people of Africa can be said to: THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES UNTIL REAL UHURU IS REALISED.
Oginga Odinga was born in Bondo, Nyanza Province.He did not know his actual date of birth but in his autobiography, Not Yet Uhuru, Odinga estimates the date of his birth to be October 1911. At his birth he was given a christian name Obadiah Adonijah, but he later renounced his Christian names and became known as Oginga Odinga. As a privileged son of Luo chief he started school at Maseno School and prestigious Alliance High School. After his successful completion of secondary education, Odinga proceeded to Makerere University in 1940.
From 1940 to 1942 Odinga taught mathematics at the Church Missionary Society School at Maseno, and from 1943 to 1946 he was headmaster of the Maseno Veterinary School.
Spurred to empower his Kenyan Luo ethnic group, Odinga started the Luo Thrift and Trading Corporation (registered in 1947), where he served as its managing director until 1962. With time, Odinga and his group undertook to strengthen the union between Luo people in the whole of East Africa. His efforts earned him admiration and recognition among the Luo, who revered him as Ker – a title previously held by the fabled classical Luo king, Ramogi Ajwang, who reigned 400 years before him. Vowing to uphold the ideals of Ramogi Ajwang, Odinga became known as Jaramogi (man of the people of Ramogi).
According to Luo tradition, a Ker could not be a politician, so Odinga relinquished his position as Ker in 1957 and became the political spokesman of the Luo.
Odinga entered politics in 1947, when he became a member of Kenya's legislative council. He was a supporter of the Kenya African Union, Kenya's only important African political group. After hearing a speech by the future leader of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, Odinga became his devoted follower. In 1953, Kenyatta was jailed by the British, and during Kenyatta's years in detention Odinga became one of the most outspoken resistance leaders calling for his release. In the first African elections for the legislature in 1957, Odinga won election in his home district of central Nyanza.
A major British effort to control Kenya's evolution in peaceful fashion was the Lancaster House Conference of 1960. A unified African delegation attended and accepted the conference's decisions as a step on the path to independence. But when the delegates returned to Kenya, rivalries shattered the unity of the African politicians, with Odinga emerging as one of the leaders of the radical group of dissatisfied Africans. Odinga and other members of the legislative council formed the Kenya African National Union (KANU). The other major African party was the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). Odinga's KANU used its strong showing in the 1961 general elections to help gain Kenyatta's release.
Oginga Odinga, Vice president with his boss Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
Kenya gained independence in December 1963, and Kenyatta, a member of the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest ethnic group, became president. Odinga, a leader of the second largest ethnic group, the Luo, was appointed minister for home affairs in 1963, and in 1964 he became vice-president. Kenya became a de facto one-party state that year when KADU merged with KANU. Odinga increasingly opposed KANU's direction after the merger, which in his opinion helped turn the government's policies to the right. He openly challenged the government's use of private and foreign investment capital and its close ties with the West.
Within KANU a coalition formed against Odinga. He was left out of decision making, and in 1966 a KANU reorganization conference abolished his post of party vice-president. In April 1966 Odinga resigned from the government and party to form an opposition group, the Kenya People's Union (KPU). The KPU faced government harassment, and some of its leaders were jailed. In October 1969, Odinga was jailed by the government on the charge of organizing a demonstration which turned into a riot. The KPU was banned, and Odinga stayed in prison for 15 months.
Odinga being carried away after motion to suspend him was overruled
Odinga remained an opposition leader throughout the 1970s. After Kenyatta's death in 1978, the new president, Daniel arap Moi, tried to bring Odinga back into KANU. But when Odinga was reinstated into the party in 1980, he attacked Moi and Kenyatta as corrupt and protested U.S. military presence in Kenya. In 1982, the party again banished Odinga and amended the constitution to make Kenya officially a one-party state.
Throughout the 1980s, international criticism of KANU's human rights record grew and Odinga remained vocal in calling for democracy. In 1991, Odinga founded the National Democratic Party, but the government refused to recognize it and briefly jailed Odinga. However, international protests were effective and later that year Odinga and five other opposition leaders formed the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), the nucleus of a pro-democracy movement. When other nations cut off aid, KANU was forced to allow opposition activity.
But FORD split in 1992, and a third leader formed another party. The splits allowed Moi to win the presidency in the December 1992 elections with about 35 percent of the vote; Odinga, 81 years old, finished fourth. In 1993, Odinga's reputation suffered when he admitted taking a campaign contribution from a bank accused of bribing government officials. In the months before his death in January 1994, Odinga tried to reconcile his branch of FORD with KANU, but without success. President Moi said at Odinga's death that "Kenya has lost a great son, a nationalist, and a patriotic citizen." In truth, it had lost its strongest opposition leader.
Odinga died in 1994 and really the country had lost a great son, a nationalist, and a patriotic citizen.
Odinga had four wives: Mary Juma, Gaudencia Adeya, Susan Agik and Betty Adongo. With these wives he had seventeen children. Mary is the mother of Raila and Oburu. Mary died in 1984
Odinga family tree as prepared by his son Dr. Wenwa Akinyi Odinga Oranga, a senior lecturer of chemistry at the University of Nairobi.
Political Dynasties in African Politics (Prof. Ali A. Mazrui, Kampala)
Political dynasties are families that have exerted disproportionate influence on the politics of their societies. If they are successful, they may produce more than one Head of State or Head of Government. But at the very minimum, political dynasties have produced political leaders in varied ranks of the political process.
The Bush family in the US has become a political dynasty. It has so far produced two presidents: George Herbert Bush and George William Bush. It is possible that there will be a third President Bush: President Jeb Bush, currently the Governor of Florida.
The Kennedy family has also been a US political dynasty. One brother (John) became president; another (Robert) became Senator and then Attorney General, and the third (Edward) has been a Senator and would probably have become president but for the Chappaquiddick tragedy.
The Odinga family of Kenya is becoming dynastic. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga rose as high as Kenya's Vice-Presidency. But his dream of becoming President of Kenya remained elusive, partly because of contrived impediments put in his way by rival political forces. Politicisation of Raila Odinga is turning the Odinga family into a political dynasty.
The Kenyattas have also been evolving into a political dynasty. In 2002, Uhuru Kenyatta attempted to become President of Kenya like his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Uhuru is young enough to ascend to the pinnacle of power in the future. Asia has experienced female succession to male martyrdom. A male leader is assassinated and a female relative emerges as a political force to take his place.
In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed as Prime Minister. Ultimately, his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, became Prime Minister of Pakistan twice before her own assassination. In Bangladeshi history, Sheikh Mujib Rahman and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq were killed. Rahman's daughter and Zia's widow rose to exercise ultimate political leadership. In Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri eventually succeeded her father, the late Sukarno, as Indonesia's Head of State.
Africa is revealing a pattern of male succession to male heroism rather than female succession to male martyrdom. In the DRC, assassinated President Laurent Kabila was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. In the Republic of Togo, the long presidency of Gnassingbe Eyadema was succeeded by the presidency of Abass Bonfoh. Both the DRC and Togo have been cases of interfamilial succession by military means. The rise of Odinga and Uhuru to national prominence in Kenya have been through democratisation rather than through military intervention.
Two assassinations in Kenya in the 1960s had significant consequences for Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. One was the assassination of Pio Gama Pinto, a Kenyan born Asian whose prime passions were serving socialism and helping Oginga. When Pinto was killed in 1965, Oginga lost a gifted political organiser. But Pinto did not produce a heroic successor after his martyrdom.
The second assassination which shook Oginga's career, was the murder of Tom Mboya in 1969. Mboya was Oginga's ethnic compatriot and political rival. His death unleashed political turmoil among the Luo and resulted in Oginga's detention and banning of his political party. But the Mboya assassination did not lead to a Mboya political successor either, whereas Oginga's natural death did result in one high profile political Odinga.
Oginga's obstacle towards the presidency was persistently ethnic. There was a concerted drive to prevent a Luo from becoming president. Kennedy's obstacle towards the presidency was religious. The US never had a Roman Catholic president. Kennedy needed to convince the American voters that he was more American than Catholic.
Both Oginga Odinga and Raila Odinga have tried their utmost to convince the Kenyan electorate that when the chips were down, the Odingas were Kenyans first and Luo second. But, have Kenyans regarded the Odingas in the reverse order- as Luo first and Kenyans second? When Oginga Odinga said uhuru had not yet been achieved, and offered to lead Kenyans to social justice, it was fellow Luo who followed him regardless of income or social class.
As far as the Kenya electorate was concerned, the messenger was more politically relevant than the message. The message was a call for greater social justice, but the messenger was judged by his ethnicity.
Blunders that cost Jaramogi presidency
By KAMAU NGOTHO
President Kenyatta had two good reasons not to move fast to politically cut to size his deputy but key adversary, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, says the secret memoirs of the first US ambassador to Kenya William Attwood. First, according to Attwood’s “The Reds and the Blacks”, a book that had been banned in Kenya, Kenyatta had closely studied his old friend and predictably knew he would, sooner than later, make blunders that could set him on road to political self-destruction. Attwood’s memoirs, which was banned by Kenyatta immediately it rolled off the press in 1967 and was never read in the country, Jaramogi played into Kenyatta’s hands.
Then ruling party, Kanu, under Kenyatta had come to power with great contribution of Odinga whose Luo Nyanza vote, then second largest in the country, had enabled the president with his then, as now, the country’s largest vote-bloc, Mount Kenya, romp home to victory against opposition Kadu. Kenyatta, according to Attwood, figured out that parting ways with Jaramogi that early would only have played into the hands of the opposition, hence decided to bid his time. The former US ambassador identifies Odinga’s first mistake to have been his temperament.
He writes: “Odinga may have been shrewd and crafty, but he was also emotional, which in big-league politics can be fatal. His weakness were emotionalism and a vast ignorance of the outside world.” Attwood relates of an incident where Odinga declined to see off his boss, Kenyatta, at the airport to revenge what he considered a snub on him.
“Kenyatta (then Prime Minister) announced that Murumbi (then a minister in the office of the prime minister) would be acting prime minister in his (Kenyatta) absence at the July Commonwealth Conference in London. Odinga (then minister for Home Affairs) who had led his backers and sup- porters to believe he was No. 2 man in the Kenyan hierarchy, was so outraged that he refused to come to the airport to see Kenyatta off – a characteristic display of temper that did him no good.
It not only called attention to the snub, but promptly started rumours that Odinga had been plotting to seize power in Kenyatta’s absence.” Odinga’s second blunder, just like his foreign sponsors, was to assume that Kenyatta, in his mid-70s at the time he took power, was senile and that,after many years in jail he could not wish to stay long in power. Atwood writes: “Just past fifty and the leader of an important tribe, he (Odinga) saw himself as Kenyatta’s logical successor.
At public ceremonies, he took pains to be seen and photographed at Kenyatta’s side, properly conspicuous in his distinctive Chinesestyle pyjama suit and waving his fly whisk like Kenyatta’s understudy. So convincingly did he play the role of Number Two that the Russians and the Chinese, looking ahead and figuring that Kenyatta was becoming senile, decided to make Odinga their man in Kenya.
On trips to Moscow and Peking (now Beijing) he was given the full VIP treatment and assurances of ample political funding.” Regular guest But Attwood who was a regular guest at Kenyatta’s court thought otherwise. “Kenyatta was by no means senile,” he writes. “Aside from being a national hero, he had the undivided loyalty of the disciplined and industrious Kikuyu.
Thus, by supporting Odinga’s ambitions, the communists were bound to alienate not only Kenyatta himself but also the most powerful tribe in Kenya. So they put their money on the colourful, but erratic, leader with expectation that he could some- day, somehow, come to power in an area where they wanted a foothold.” Atwood says, the support by the communists incited and enabled Odinga to challenge Kenyatta’s leadership, at first indirectly and finally openly.
But contrary to popular belief, writes Atwood, Kenyatta/Odinga political skirmishes were never ideological, that is Capitalism vs Communism, as was perceived. Attwood reckons: “It’s true that Odinga used Communist money to build his own political organisation and that Kenyatta’s government was strengthened by Western aid pro- grammes.
But both men were essentially African nationalists who didn’t consider themselves beholden to any foreign power. Odinga, though attract- ed by what he’d been shown of Communist achievements, didn’t expect to be dictated to by Moscow and Peking if he came to power; as for Kenyatta, he welcomed cooperation with the West only so long as we (The West) support- ed what he wanted for Kenya.”
Attwood then outlines individual strengths of the two political adversaries, which in the end, were to determine who emerged the winner. Kenyatta’s political assets, he says, were his own personal prestige, a competent team of loyal ministers and a reliable security apparatus. “His problem was to keep Odinga under control without making him martyr to 1.1 million Luos.”
On the other hand, Odinga political assets, reckoned the US envoy, were ample sources of funds, the loyalty of the majority Luo, control of immigration and (through then minister Achieng’ Oneko) control of the radio, and the services of brilliant tactician named Pio Gama Pinto. Odinga’s and his handlers’ third and perhaps biggest blunder that enabled Kenyatta to easily punch him hard when the time came, writes Attwood, was that they executed their plot so openly, even recklessly.http://www.thepeople.co.ke/16277/blunders-that-cost-jaramogi-presidency/