Is this the end of an era for Raila Odinga?

Sunday August 21 2022
Raila Odinga.

Kenyan presidential contender Raila Odinga. PHOTO | FILE


In Raila Odinga’s fifth stab at the presidency, the results are the same —a defeat, which he has disputed yet again.

Since 1997, when he came third behind Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, Mr Odinga had run for president without success. His closest to the seat came in 2007 when former president Kibaki won controversially.

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Now at 77, the son of Kenya’s first vice president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga could be at the end of his political tether if the Supreme Court upholds the win by President-elect William Ruto.

In 1997, when Mr Odinga ran on the National Development Party (NDP) ticket, he lost the vote but he stayed active in politics. In 2001, after his rapprochement with President Moi, he was appointed minister and secretary-general of the then-ruling party Kanu after dissolving NDP.

But his co-operation with former president Moi didn’t last long. The leader endorsed Uhuru Kenyatta to succeed him in 2002. Mr Odinga and others decamped to the Liberal Democratic Party, which would late coalesce with Mr Kibaki’s Democratic Party to form the National Rainbow Coalition that defeated Kanu in 2002, ending four decades of rule under one party.


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Mr Odinga evokes mixed emotions in Kenya. Nigerian biographer Babafemi Badejo described him as the enigma of Kenyan politics. To his supporters, he is a democrat who has sacrificed a lot in his fight against dictatorship. Others see him as a person who will do anything to gain power. Within his Orange party, nominations have always brought up claims of rigging or unfairness. He has contested every electoral loss, alleging rigging. ODM has survived 17 years as a party in a country where political parties hardly last five years.

This week, Mr Odinga rejected the presidential election results. Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati declared Mr Ruto the President-elect on Monday.

“In our view, there is neither a legally and validly declared winner nor a president-elect. Mr Chebukati’s announcement purporting to announce a winner is a nullity. He acted with gross impunity and in total disregard of the constitution and our laws,” Mr Odinga said in Nairobi on Tuesday.