Raila Odinga

The day Raila Odinga escaped assassination and how he did it

In his autobiography, ‘The Flame of Freedom’ Raila describes his three prison stints – as some of the most difficult periods of his life.

This was in1982-1988, 1988-1989 and 1990-1991 –

He however says he made most of it through deep reflection of issues and reading the Bible and the Quran. Through the reflection afforded by the state, he could make certain value judgments with authority:

“In my view the decisive event in Old Testament is not the creation but the exodus, through which the people of Israel are freed from Egyptian slavery,” he says in the book.

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He also makes mention of something he reflected on during prison days which is at the heart of a present confusion among religions in Kenya and the world:

the contrast between redemptive religions and morality religions where the former believe in a system of reward and punishment entailing life after death while the latter believe in system of punishment and reward in lifetime.

“I found reflection on these and other issues stimulating and rewarding. I forgot all about my present privations while my musings and studies lifted me to a higher plane,” he says.

He reveals how he reluctantly agreed to testify against Njonjo in the Commission of Inquiry against him by concocting stories to save the 82 Air Force men on death-row.

Unlike Miguna who described Patrick Shaw a “literary walking toilet”, Raila only describes him as “the gargantuan reserve police officer.”

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His brief release in 1988 in the countdown to the infamous mlolongo elections did not offer any respite. He described how hurt he was to see Kanu ministers toppling over themselves to justify the queue voting idea.

While Sharrif Nassir was militant that mlolongo was the best wapende wasipende, then minister for national guidance and political affairs James Njiru dubbed it “positive patriotism” and Mark Too described it as “open-air democracy”.

Assistant ministers Archbishop Stephen Ondiek divinely endorsed it, saying what was passed on earth had also been passed in heaven, while Prof Sam Ongeri, a medical doctor, said “health-wise, mlolongo had no tension.”

He narrates a 1991 attempted assassination which he says was revealed to him by a US embassy political attache Alan Eastham.

On the appointed day, Raila went under hiding in James Orengo’s house where he’d play all day long with his son Bob and later moving to Mukhisa Kituyi’s home where’s he’d play with his sons Sitati and Makari.

raila

The dramatic escape to the US embassy in which Kituyi’s wife worked on him with makeup, powdered him and added him reading glasses is retold.

“With these specs perched on my nose I could hardly see a thing but they completed the disguise,” he says.

His escape to Uganda through Kisumu in the company of Catholic priests Kwanga Mak’Opiyo and Ndikaru wa Teresia on orders of Archbishop Zaccheaus Okoth is retold.

The story has been told before but this time round there’s no mention of him dressed in nun clothing. He says in the car there was a middle-aged American nun, Sister Diana, dressed in her nun’s habit.

Raila himself says he was dressed in a jacket and tie and sporting dark glasses and a hat. He says he sat reading newspapers as Fr Mak’Opiyo drove and Sister Diana sat beside him.

They arrived at a hillside Catholic mission of Kiboswa where he was introduced as Father Augustine from Machakos where he claims to have used his knowledge of engineering projection to mimic making sign of the cross ahead of prayers.

He later escaped through the lake at night into Uganda where he would be dressed as a pilgrim on his way to a Mecca, a Haji Omar, complete with a kanzu and a fez on facilitation of Museveni. He went to Oslo.

This is a continuation of an analysis of former PM Raila Odinga’s autobiography, ‘The Flame of Freedom’. The first part of this article ran in the Weekend Star.

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