Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Amollo Odinga is described by many as the enigma of Kenyan politics.

The former prime minister is a seasoned politician who has been in the Kenyan political scene for close to 40 years.

Kivumbi.co.ke delved into Raila Amollo Odinga long political career spanning decades.

Raila Amollo Odinga is a veteran politician having shot to the limelight in 1982 during an attempted coup.
Raila Amollo Odinga is a veteran politician having shot in the limelight in 1982 during an attempted coup.

Raila Odinga early life

On January 7, 1945, Raila Odinga was born in Maseno to Mary Juma Odinga and Kenya’s first vice president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

The 76-year-old is a member of the Luo community dominant in the Nyanza region of Kenya.

Raila Odinga education

Raila Odinga began his primary school at Kisumu Union Primary. After excelling in his primary studies, he was offered a chance at Maranda High School, one of Kenya’s top-performing national schools.

He studied at Maranda until 1962, when his father transferred him to Germany.

While in the European nation, Raila Odinga learned german at the Herder institution for two years.

Then, in 1965, he secured a scholarship at the Technical School in Magdeburg, graduating five years later with a diploma (German for bachelors degree) in mechanical engineering and welding.

It was reported that thanks to Raila Odinga Kenyan citizenship, he was able to bring his friends some extra goods not available in East Berlin from West Germany.

Raila political career

Raila Odinga rose to prominence following the infamous 1982 coup, where he was accused of collaborating with coup plotters against the then government led by the late retired president Daniel Arap Moi.

Raila Amollo Odinga was subsequently charged with treason and detained without trial for six years.

While in prison, his mother died, but he was only informed of her demise two months later, an experience he said still pains him to date.

On February 6, 1988, he was released but later rearrested seven months later for calling for an end to Independence party KANU’s one-party rule in his quest for democracy.

Raila Amollo Odinga was imprisoned again on July 5, 1990, alongside multiparty crusaders Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia.

Raila Amollo Odinga has had a very long political career both inside and outside the government.

After his release on June 21, 1991, he went into exile in Norway amid fears for his life.

Raila Amollo Odinga returned to Kenya in 1992 to join the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), an outfit launched and led by his father to fight for the introduction of multiparty politics.

Months to the 1992 General Election, Ford split into two, led by Jaramogi (FORD Kenya) and Kenneth Matiba (FORD Asili).

Raila was, during the polls marred by chaos, elected member of parliament (MP) for Lang’ata Constituency.

In 1994 after his father’s death, the now ODM leader fought for the control of FORD Kenya with the late Micheal Kijana Wamalwa.

Following the wrangles, Raila Amollo Odinga quit FORD Kenya and joined the National Development Party (NDP).

Odinga for president

Raila’s first stab at the presidency was in 1997, coming a distant third behind incumbent Kenya’s longest-serving president late Daniel Arap Moi of KANU, and retired President Mwai Kibaki of the Democratic Party.

After the elections, he surprisingly joined hands with the KANU. He was appointed Energy Minister, holding the position from June 2001 to 2002 when Moi retired.

His peak at KANU was when he was elected as Secretary General of the independence party, replacing Joseph Kamotho.

Many at the time believed Raila Amollo Odinga’s chances for the presidency were high only for then-president Daniel Moi to endorse Uhuru Kenyatta, the scion of the Kenyatta family in the 2002 General Election.

Raila Amollo Odinga has vied for the presidency for a record 4 times without success and he is poised to vie again. Photo:Raila Odinga/Facebook

After the betrayal, he joined the Liberal Democratic Party. Then, he and other KANU loyalists shifted their allegiance to Mwai Kibaki, forming the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), which ended KANU’ss 40-year long rule.

Raila Odinga served as Minister for Energy from 2001 to 2002 and as the Minister for Roads, Public Works, and Housing from 2003 to 2005.

In 2005, Raila and other cabinet members, who successfully opposed a referendum, formed by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) after falling out with then-president Mwai Kibaki.

Raila contested the presidency again in the 2007 elections on the ODM ticket.

However, his attempts of occupying State House were dealt a blow after the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) declared Mwai Kibaki the winner in a poll Raila claimed was rigged.

Post-election violence

He and other aggrieved ODM members called for mass action leading to the deaths of over 1,000 people.

In February 2008, Raila Odinga nevertheless signed a peace accord with Kibaki and was appointed prime minister, a position he held until 2013.

In 2013, Raila’s party ODM, Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party, and Moses Wetangula’s FORD Kenya formed the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), which he was the flagbearer.

The alliance was defeated by the Jubilee coalition, which had Uhuru Kenyatta as a presidential candidate and Willliam Ruto as running mate.

He challenged the results at the Supreme Court, but Uhuru’s victory was affirmed by the bench led by the then Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

Election violence Kenya

Raila, in 2017 took a fourth stab at the top job but failed again after Uhuru was reelected, winning by 54%.

In the repeat poll, after the election was annulled, Raila did not contest, citing a lack of confidence in the electoral body, IEBC.

On January 30, after a series of rallies, he was sworn in as the ‘people’s president in a well-attended event at Uhuru Park.

On Friday, March 9, 2018, he ceased hostilities with his political nemesis Uhuru in what is popular referred to as the handshake, which culminated into the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

He has since officially announced he would vie for the presidency again in 2022 after the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s verdict to declare BBI unconstitutional, null and void.

Raila Odinga net worth

His net worth is estimated at $500 million (KSh 54.4 billion). Among the companies he owns is East African Spectre which deals in liquid petroleum gas.

In a January 2020 interview, however, the former Prime Minister said he is not rich, only worth about KSh 2 billion shillings.

The veteran politician said his wealth is mostly in the form of shares in companies while putting the value of his palatial Karen home at about KSh 300 million.

Raila Odinga marriage and wife/family

Raila married da Odinga on September 1, 1973. The two lovebirds met at the University of Nairobi.

The duo has melted the hearts of many with their public display of affection on several occasions.

Raila and Ida are blessed with four children, namely Fidel, Rosemary, Raila Jnr, and Winnie.

Fidel was married to Veronica Wanjiru, but they parted ways. He later got hitched to Eritrean beauty Gatachew Bekele whom they stayed together until his death on January 4, 2015.