Raila opens up on handshake, Rosemary’s illness & graft war
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, in an exclusive interview with Citizen TV, has finally opened up about the highs and lows that he encountered in 2018.
Speaking to Editorial Director Joe Ageyo, the former Prime Minister spoke about a range of issues, majorly; the historic January 30 event where he was ‘sworn in’ as the “People’s President” at Uhuru Park, his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as how he received the news of his daughter Rosemary Odinga’s illness.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader also recalled an incident during the festive season period last year when his sister-in-law handed him a Bible and demanded to have him sworn in.
He went ahead to reveal that, following the ‘swearing in’ ceremony which was attended by thousands of opposition supporters, they were supposed to create an alternate system of government complete with their own administration and an elaborate tax collection system.
“We basically decided that, if these people are not ready to talk, then we were going to set up a parallel administration. There were also those who said that, after the swearing in, they were going to remove all the portraits of the President, and also we would start collecting taxes in our strongholds,” said Mr. Odinga.
The ODM boss, however, remained cagey on how the handshake deal was achieved in terms of who reached out to the other between himself and President Kenyatta; only revealing that only two leaders acted alone.
Courts undermining war on corruption
He also faulted the Kenyan courts for frustrating the government’s fight against corruption by granting bonds and bail terms to accused persons and allowing them to return to the very public offices they are accused of swindling.
“Take the public service; if somebody is found to have misappropriated something or acted incorrectly, he is interdicted on half pay, no pay or is suspended so that you don’t go to the office,” said Mr. Odinga.
“But here is a case where somebody has already been investigated and evidence has been found and he has been charged with a criminal offence; but he goes to court and is allowed to go back to the office.”
Daughter Rosemary Odinga’s illness
The former Kibera Member of Parliament also spoke about how the news that his daughter, Rosemary Odinga, had fainted in Naivasha “hit like thunder when we were in the middle of campaign.”
Mr. Odinga narrated how he was on a flight to Turkana with his other daughter Winnie Odinga when she (Winnie) received a text message informing them of the incident, adding that “we didn’t think it was that serious.”
“After the operation in Nairobi, she was comatose for 8 days… so we had to send her by air ambulance to South Africa where she stayed for three months, Ida (Odinga) had to take up an apartment in Johannesburg,” narrated an emotional Mr. Odinga.
“When they stayed there she was on a wheelchair, and then she came back and we went to Israel briefly… then it was a Chinese physical therapist who discovered that something was not adding up. So he took a scan and discovered that an aneurysm, which had burst, was recurring and there was another one next to it and a tumor.”
The scan, according to the veteran politician, was then sent to a professor in Peking University, China, who informed them that Rosemary’s condition was an emergency and so – coincidentally, this time last year – they flew her to the East Asia state.
“They took two days examining, and then they decided that they do a three-in-one operation… about ten professors… and it lasted about ten hours. By the time they wheeled her out of the theatre, she was conscious and she could talk,” he narrated.
“They put her in ICU for three hours and discharged her and we took her to a general ward. After six days they removed the stitches… seven days later she was discharged from the ward and put into rehab where she was discharged three days later.”
Difference between Jaramogi Odinga and Jomo Kenyatta
The National Super Alliance (NASA) co-principal further alluded to differences between his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and President Kenyatta’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, being brought about by land.
“The settlers who had occupied what was called white highlands did not want to stay under an African government; they wanted out, they wanted their farms to be bought from them. So the British government came up with the idea of giving the Kenyan government a loan to buy the land. Jaramogi and his group said, ‘No, why should we buy our land from these people? They took it for free, they’re the ones who should pay us something,’” recalled Mr. Odinga.
“Then there was a group led by Mboya who said we should agree to compensation. And Kenyatta sided with this other group. That was the cause of the division.”
New AU role
On his newly-acquired role as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Mr. Odinga said his duty entails ensuring the interconnection of energy, roads, railways, ICT, as well as air transport throughout the continent.