Raila’s plunge into a pool stirs political ripples

By Susan Anyangu

For Prime Minister Raila Odinga it may have been one short moment of immersion into a residential swimming pool, but political analysts think it was a plunge for his political career.

The evangelical style baptism chosen by Raila was dramatic enough to capture prime international airtime on BBC and other channels, but its political implications may not be lost on those who have watched his political career.

In the last presidential campaigns, his adversaries who claimed he was not a Christian put him on the defensive. He had to defend himself saying he was a baptised Anglican.

Now as he set aside all prime ministerial emblem, held his nose and let himself go under, in the hands of the Reverend Dr David Owuor of the Ministry of Repentance and Holiness, then broke the surface a ‘new’ man, Raila may have known he will not have to fend off such allegations again.

However, whether it was politics or religion that drew the politician into the pool, it was a dramatic moment in the life of a man described as ‘enigmatic’.

Stood quietly

A humbled Prime Minister Raila Odinga shed his official suit and tie for a simple Chinese collar crisp, white suit and walked barefoot into a pool where he was baptised.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (centre) is baptised by Dr David Owuor (left) of The Ministry of Repentance and Holiness and Pastor Fred Otieng in Nairobi.

The normally talkative Raila stood quietly as he left the Reverend Owuor to run the show.

And surrender he did, as Raila walked into the pool he had only Dr Owuor by his side. His security detail watched from the sidelines as he was immersed into the water. When he emerged a smiling Raila, in his anecdotal style, had this to say: "The people of Kenya left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, they have gone up the mountain and now we are at the banks of River Jordan. We do not want to go back to Egypt. Rather, what we want is to go to Canaan and the Lord will take us there. We shall cross River Jordan."

As the soaked Prime Minister emerged from the pool with a smile, the crowd broke into song and shouts of jubilation. Screams rent the air of the otherwise serene, leafy Riverside suburb of Nairobi as the faithful celebrated the baptism.

Last month, Raila received salvation while attending a repentance prayer meeting in Nakuru. In front of thousands of faithful at the showground, Owuor led the Prime Minister through a prayer in which he professed ‘salvation’.

God’s grace

And upon getting ‘saved’ Raila said the country needs God’s grace to overcome the challenges the nation is going through. He called upon Kenyans to seek spiritual nourishment.

Raila took his declaration further by getting baptised a second time.

"I was born a Christian and baptised at the Anglican Church of Kenya in Maseno and named Raila Amollo Odinga. Today’s baptism is a confirmation. I am happy the man of God has received and blessed me," said Raila.

In the book, Not Yet Uhuru, written by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila’s late father, who was then communist leaning, said he objected to giving his children English baptismal names.

The baptism was officiated by the Reverend Owuor, who is renowned for his prophecies.

His presence is overwhelming and the effect he has on worshippers is evident. His crusades are known to pull huge crowds. Some are known to spend nights at the venue praying before the ‘prophet’ arrives.

Historic event

Of Raila’s baptism, Owuor said it is symbolic and termed it a historic event of great significance.

While making reference to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, Owuor said the event should not to be taken lightly.

"What we are witnessing here today is not merely just a baptism but rather the healing of a nation and making of history. For a leader to lead his people back to the Lord, that is where the healing of this land lies," he said.

Owuor, who in his prophecies has stated Kenyans should repent and seek divine intervention to end problems afflicting the nation, saw Monday’s baptism as a journey towards that end.

Said he: "Blessed is that place whose leader will follow the footprints of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was baptised, faithful received blessings from God. This baptism will have ramifications that will touch every fabric of this country."

He went on to say Raila’s decision to turn to spiritual nourishment had come at an opportune time when the country was at a political crossroads and faced myriad challenges.

"Through the healing of the land the nation will become cohesive because the peace of God surpasses human understanding," said Owuor.

With that declaration, Owuor gave the Prime Minister a Bible, and said: "This is the word of God it brings healing."

Bible in hand, the ‘re-born’ Raila, now in his official suit and tie, security detail in tow, was back to politics.

He left with a promise to organise a national prayer day.