2 February 2013

Kenya: Odingas a Revolutionary Family, Not a Dynasty


Whatever we say about the Odingas today does not matter. Their space in history as ideological extensions of Africa's top families is fully earned; 50 years of patriotic politics.

That they continued pursuing the elusive independence as defined by celebrated forefathers is immortalised in the KPU manifesto, their patriarch's publication "Not Yet Uhuru" and their track record in the second liberation.

No Kenyan family name can be lined up with Kwame Nkrumah's, Gamal Nasser's, Julius Nyerere's, Sylvanus Olympio's, Nelson Mandela's etc other than the Odingas.

The attacks the Odinga's faced the other day in a context provided by the nomination fiasco are comparable to what the disciples of Jesus would face if they came back to take Christianity to the next level in the 21st century's evangelical realities.

Intellectuals will present a selling justification for the return of the disciples rooted in morality, history and spirituality. It will be said they survived the trauma of the Roman Empire, refused to give up while in prisons, served the divine cause without pay, and on that basis analysts would expect humankind to say: "Aluta Continua! Under your command, we match on."

The reality will, however, be different. Material interests, fear of competition, the new code of conduct and the lucrative "fungu la Kumi" will blur the vision of contemporary Bishops.

Such is the curse of easy times in the history of movements. In trying times, the most morally developed stick out their necks for the rest. But when victory is won, a scramble emerges not just for the gains of the dispensation but also the distortion of history to apportion credit to those who kept off to serve personal gods.

The new arrivals insist on taking over leadership in the lucrative phase of the movement in a manner reminiscent of what the late John Michuki told Prof. Ngotho Kariuki in 1992; "You are like caterpillars. You did the roads well but it is now the turn of Mercedes Benzes to drive on them."

As the unknowns emerge from oblivion with mountains of cash to run for office, I am reminded of the treasury that Jaramogi's resources were to the reform campaign that consumed his lifetime.

That is why I disagree with those who threw insults and propaganda at the reform movement's first family for seeking nomination in readiness to continue serving the cause they have lived for.

When propagandists talk of the Odinga "political dominance", the reality is that they are referring to the Odinga family "selflessness and sacrifice" for national salvation.

They revered and celebrated the family of Jaramogi when they risked their all for the nation. Father and son (Raila) hardly lived together because when Raila was young the father was kept in detention. Not long after Jaramogi was freed, the son was sent back to prison for years.

As these new breed of aspirants scramble for paying political offices by throwing epithets at the Odingas, they forget that Oburu Odinga may be the first Phd holding councilor for lack of alternatives in the 80s.

Dr Wennwa Odinga got a junior Job at Pyrethrum Board in the Moi era. When she was discovered to be an Odinga, she was sacked. Ida Odinga was sacked as a teacher at Kenya High School at the height of our struggle. Let their critics tell us their story for comparison.

The accusation of dominance cannot hold water because none of their accusers stepped forward to dominate politics in the dark days. Isn't the greatest argument for Raila's presidential bid consistency hence better placed to implement the new constitution?

What is wrong with Ruth Odinga, Ida and Oburu asking to be given a chance to do what they have always done for this nation for free in torturous environments? In any case in the 80s, we had three public Odingas; Jaramogi, Ida and Raila. Their number is still the same; Raila, Ruth and Oburu.

Finally, the Odinga political family transcends his blood relatives. Odinga had a national family to which many of us belonged. We lived similar lives and depended on each other for political and material support.

Kang'ethe Mungai's family gave their all on the underground front in the 1980s. He was jailed for 12 years after breaking his hand during arrest in 1986 in Nyayo House.

His brother Waruiru died in Kamiti prison serving a political jail term. His other two brothers were exiled in Tanzania. The last born, a roommate in Uganda died on returning to Kenya in 1992.

When the Release Political Prisoners lobby group got funding in mid 90s, we all endorsed their engagement on salary at the RPP offices in the new lucrative phase of the struggle.

According to the Odinga detractors, we should have pushed them aside because there was an income factor. We still recognized them as leaders in their own right capable of leading us at a stage when the struggle was easier and paying.

The Odingas are not a dynasty; they are historical extension of a revolutionary struggle just like Kang'ethe's. They are the reform fraternity's first family whose member has been endorsed to run for president on a reform platform; Raila Amolo Odinga.

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