Raila and Obama head to South Africa for Mandela celebrations

Ex-US President Barack Obama and Raila Odinga when they held talks on Sunday in Nairobi. The two leaders will be in South Africa to celebrate Nelson Mandela's posthumous birthday [Courtesy]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga left the country this afternoon for a four-day visit to South Africa where he is scheduled to attend the 100th anniversary of the late Nelson Mandela's birth.

Dennis Onyango, Raila's spokesman said he left the country for Johannesburg where former US President Barack Obama will set the tone for the celebrations with a speech.

Onyango said Raila will later proceed to Mvezo in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, the birthplace of Mandela, where he is scheduled to deliver a talk on the life and legacy of the country’s first black president. He is expected back in Nairobi at the end of the week.

Raila's itinerary has been full in the recent past as he has been crisscrossing the globe to promote peace and give lectures. In May, he left Kenya for Juba, South Sudan, where he held a seven-hour meeting with President Salva Kiir.

Political observers said this trip to Juba ushered in Raila's full-blown role as an African Union (AU) special envoy, and an official representative of Kenya in the negotiations to end civil strife in the troubled East African country.

It was his first formal role after the historic March 9 handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta, sealed on the steps of Harambee House, Nairobi that gave birth to the Building the Bridges initiative.

For the Juba trip, he was accompanied by lawyer Paul Mwangi and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed.

He also met Chief negotiator of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Henry Odwar, at Nairobi hotel the same month, where the faction leaders welcomed Raila’s new role as a special envoy.

In July, Raila left for South Africa in his second leg of talks with South Sudan leaders in a bid to end three years civil war.

There, he held talks with rebel leader Dr Riek Machar, in an effort to reconcile the two leaders. The talks have led to a partial power sharing where Machar has been offered the post of first vice president.

Obama who arrived in the country on Sunday held separate talks with President Uhuru and Raila. He travelled to Kogelo in Siaya County yesterday morning for the inauguration of his sister Dr. Auma Obama's Sauti Kuu foundation.

He will later leave for South Africa.


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