Inside the Odingas' growing political empire

Raila Odinga, Oburu Oginga, Ruth Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (second left) poses for a photo with his siblings Oburu Oginga (left), Dr. Wenwa Akinyi and Ruth Adhiambo Odinga at the Jaramogi Memorial Golf Tournament in Kisumu on January 30, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

That the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga family is one of the most recognisable in Kenya’s political scene is not in doubt.

Mzee Jaramogi, who died in January 1994, was Kenya’s first vice-president and is often seen as the father of opposition politics after he fell out with founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

And his name is still flying high, with his son, Raila Amollo Odinga, now gunning for the presidency in his fifth attempt at the top job.

Besides Mr Odinga, a host of other family members have lined up for other elective seats, with third-tier family members – Mzee Jaramogi’s grandchildren – presenting themselves as candidates.

The most recent entrant is Mr Elijah Bonyo Oburu, a nephew of Mr Odinga, the Azimio la Umoja presidential hopeful. Mr Bonyo wants to contest the Kisumu Central MP’s seat.

Mr Bonyo’s father, Oburu Odinga, recently launched his bid for Siaya County senator.

Raila Odinga and Oburu Oginga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) and his brother, EALA Legislator Oburu Oginga during a Christmas service at St Peter Nyamira ACK church in Bondo on December 25, 2018.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Ruth Odinga, a former Kisumu deputy governor, is also in the fray and wants to vie for the Kisumu woman representative seat, while Mr Odinga’s cousin, Dr Jalang’o Midiwo, wants the Gem parliamentary seat.

Mr Bonyo’s brother, Jaoko Oburu, and their uncle Isaac Omondi recently dropped their bids for the Lang’ata and Milimani Market ward representative seats respectively.

It was not clear whether the two dropped out voluntarily or were pushed to do so. But Dr Oginga, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, is reported to have declined to shelve his ambitions as the debate about members of ‘dynasties’ contesting elective seats rages.

Now, Mr Bonyo has come out to explain why several members of the Odinga family are in the race for elective positions in the August 9 General Election.

He said the family's belief in the liberation struggle was the motivation, and they want to fight for justice and a better society.

"Backing out of elective politics was failing our forefathers and ancestors, who believed in the liberation struggles," Mr Bonyo said.

Mr Bonyo took journalists and supporters through the family’s political journey, explaining how they have been more of victims rather than beneficiaries of the liberation struggle.

He said his grandfather, Jaramogi, struggled as a casual labourer to pay his school fees at Maseno School and suffered as a freedom fighter, adding that some people have chosen to ignore some of these sacrifices.

He added that his grandfather’s selfless act of allowing Jomo Kenyatta to lead Kenya when he had a chance to take that role is something many cannot do.

Ruth Odinga

Ruth Odinga, who is the Deputy Governor for Kisumu County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“Many might not know, but this liberation struggle has caused us pain, blood, permanent scars and death. We do not seek to contest to get rich or wealthy. It is because to do anything less is to be shaming our ancestors and forefathers who died for something they believed in and stood for,” Mr Bonyo.

He was speaking at a media dinner where he announced his candidacy for the Kisumu Central parliamentary seat.

His remarks came amid murmurs among politicians and some of their supporters that many members of the family had declared their interest in elective seats as ODM leader Mr Odinga is seeking the presidency.

Dr Oginga has always expressed his displeasure at some unknown people who don't want to see him on the ballot on the basis that he will ‘spoil’ the chances of his brother, who is the Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate.

Mr Bonyo, however, said that the name Odinga has caused them more pain than blessings though he is proud of it nonetheless.

“Having a good name is never enough. What matters is what you do with it. I was born with a good name but I have realised that it is easier to build a name than to keep one. What exactly did we do or who did we kill as the Odingas that people do not want us on the ballot?” Mr Bonyo said.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga

The late opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

He said many people were attacking them though there were several families in Kenya with members who served or are serving as elected leaders.

Mr Bonyo gave as examples the Mois, Nyagahs, Sunkulis and Kajwangs. The late Gerald Otieno Kajwang was the first senator of Homa Bay County before the seat was inherited by his younger brother Moses Kajwang, while Tom Kajwang is the Ruaraka MP.

Peter Mwamba Kajwang, their other brother, is an MCA for Kaptembwa ward in Nakuru County and is the minority leader in the House.

“If you leave for a journey and you know what you want to achieve, you do not stop to engage detractors or mad men because they derail you. The only honour and respect I will show my ancestors is to contest this seat and serve my people,” Mr Bonyo said.

Mr Bonyo’s entry into the race for the Kisumu Parliamentary seat has complicated the contest formerly dominated by the incumbent Fred Ouda and his fierce rival Joshua Oron.

The confrontations between Mr Ouda and Dr Orono have attracted the attention of ODM officials and the party’s disciplinary committee.

Mr Bonyo said he doesn’t want to be in politics for the sake of it but to change the lives of his constituents through his experience and networks.

He is basing his candidacy on inclusivity, economic empowerment of young people and zero tolerance for corruption.

“I seek this office to change my life and others. I have the networks and know where the money is that we will use to empower youths and those in business,” Mr Bonyo said.

The other aspirants that he is facing in the race for the ODM ticket are Zablon Awange, an official with the teachers’ union Kuppet, lawyer Kenneth Amondi, Victor Radido and businessman Deo Owalla.