How Kenya’s Raila Odinga Has Wielded Politics To Protect His Father’s Family Legacy

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Raila Odinga: is a Kenyan politician who was Prime Minister from 2008 to 2013

In Uganda, he is only famous as a politician and the former prime minister of Kenya. Across the border however, he is among the very richest men in Kenya. His net worth, from business ventures he has stakes in, including Pan African Petroleum Ltd. and East Africa Spectre Ltd. is estimated to be roughly $30,000,000. His name is Raila Odinga.

In Kenya, he is indeed a famous politician, often regarded as the father of democracy in the country. Raila was born into a politically active family; his father served as Kenya’s first Vice President. After completing his education in Germany, he returned to Kenya, where he began a teaching career, while at the same time participating in various business ventures related to his field of mechanical engineering.

Later he would become involved in politics. He was one of the most prominent supporters of the movement for political reform in Kenya, particularly for multi-party democracy, rather than the traditional single-party politics in the country. He would serve time in prison for these activities on several different occasions, including one stint lasting six years, and he is said to have received several threats of death.

After his last imprisonment he went on to work his way up the Kenyan political ladder, forming and combining numerous political parties, and running for president a couple of times. Although he lost each of the presidential elections he had participated in, he would eventually become the country’s second-ever Prime Minister, and was able to effect political change in his country through this position – such delivering a new constitution for Kenya.

Early Life

Raila Amolo Odinga was born January 7, 1945 in Maseno, Kenya to Mary Ajuma Odinga and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

He had his primary education at Kisumu Union Primary School, Maranda Primary School and later attended the ‘Maranda High School’.

Starting in 1962, he spent two years at the Herder Institute, part of the University of Leipzig in East Germany. He then earned a scholarship to the Technical School in Magdeburg, East Germany, where he graduated in 1970 with a degree in Mechanical engineering.

Raila Odinga’s Personal Life

He exchanged wedding vows with his wife, Ida in 1973 and the family resides in Karen, Nairobi. They have four children: Fidel, Rosemary, Raila Jr. and Winnie.

Chronological Events Of His Career

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Politician as well as savvy businessman

After completing his graduate studies in 1970, Raila returned to Kenya, where he became a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. In 1971, while still teaching at the University of Nairobi, he established what would become East African Spectre Ltd, a company manufacturing liquid petroleum gas cylinder.

In 1974 he left the University of Nairobi and began working at the Kenya Bureau of Standards as a group standards manager. Four years later he was promoted to Deputy Director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

In 1982, he was accused of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against the President. He was charged with treason and imprisoned, without trial, for six years.

 Shortly after his release, he was rearrested for involvement with activists pushing for multi-party democracy in Kenya, in September 1988.

 He was released from prison on June 12, 1989, but a year later was arrested again. He was released from prison on June 21, 1991, and in October left Kenya for Norway. His decision to leave his motherland was later learned to have been because of the assassination threats he claimed to have received from the Kenyan government.

In 1992 he returned to Kenya and joined FORD, Forum for the Restoration of Democracy, which was a political movement. He was elected Vice Chairman of the General Purposes Committee of FORD.

In 1992, FORD split into two factions, FORD-Kenya led by Raila Odinga’s father, and FORD-Asili led by Kenneth Matiba. Raila Odinga was appointed Deputy Director of Elections of FORD-Kenya. The same year, he won a seat in Parliament and began to be known as one of the fathers of multi-party democracy in the country.

He ran for President in the 1997 General Election, finishing third but keeping his seat in Parliament. After the election he began to support President Arap Moi’s government, leading a merger between his party and Moi’s KANU party.

From June 2001 to 2002, he served on the Cabinet of President Moi as Energy Minister. This same year, he was also elected the KANU party’s secretary general.

In 2002, in opposition of President Moi’s choice of presidential candidate, Raila left KANU to form the Liberal Democratic Party. This party then joined with the National Alliance of Kenya to form the National Rainbow Coalition. In the later part of the year, he was appointed minister of roads, public works and housing in the new President’s cabinet.

In 2005, following a political controversy, the President dismissed his entire cabinet and reassembled it, without Odinga and his allies, leading him to form a new coalition, the Orange Democratic Movement.

In 2007, Raila ran for president again, narrowly losing. He disputed the result, and widespread violence and rioting broke out.

As a result of the violence following the 2007 election, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stepped in and helped reach an agreement between Odinga and the President to form a coalition government, with Odinga being sworn in on April 17, 2008 as Prime Minister.

In 2013, he ran again for president again narrowly losing. At first challenging the results, when the Supreme Court upheld them, he conceded defeat.

Other Achievements

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Raila Odinga at VOA News

The Flame of Freedom”, an autobiography detailing his life and struggles, was launched in October 2013.

In 2008, Raila was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

He was awarded an honorary degree from Florida A&M University in the United States, in 2012. He was appointed to mediate the Ivorian crisis in 2010-2011, which involved widespread violence following elections in Ivory Coast.

He worked closely with President Kibaki in 2010, to pass a new constitution for Kenya, which moved some of the power of the presidency back to the local government level.

Raila Odinga’s Wealth

Part of Raila’s wealth was inherited from his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, although he has, by himself made billions through politics.

Odinga is believed to have made a fortune when he was the Prime Minister. It is estimated that from 2002 – 2013, he made close to KSH 10 billion. During President Moi’s time, he managed to start Pan African Petroleum Company, which imports and distributes petroleum products.

Today, he is owner of several businesses, and assets throughout Kenya and among others include Spectre International Limited [the holding company for Kisumu Ethanol Plant], East African Spectre [the gas cylinder manufacturing plant founded by Raila’s late father], Raila’s family home in Karen Nairobi, Runda House, a house in Mombasa, a KSH 1 billion State House in Kisumu, Pan African Petroleum Company [the firm through which the Odinga family imports and distributes petroleum products].The Kenyan [a newspaper he launched in recent times], and two choppers. All his assets combined make Raila Odinga one of the wealthiest politicians in East Africa.

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