Raila Odinga: Man with more lives than that of a cat?

Raila Odinga when he joined his party members at Orange House as Bernard Imran Okoth was officially presented with his certificate after the conclusion of last nominations exercise. [File, Standard]

Is ODM leader Raila Odinga the proverbial cat with nine lives? 

His ardent supporters think he is more than a cat as they justify his many escapes from imminent danger and political intrigues ever since he burst into the fast lane of Kenya’s politics.

From surviving inhumane prison conditions, alleged assassination plots, police dragnets and political betrayals, Raila has seen it all, always emerging stronger with fresh arithmetic every time his enemies plan to write his political obituary.

An evangelist, who at one time worked as Raila’s aide, the Reverend George Otura, believes the Opposition leader was not only a lucky man but a mysterious and complicated political genius.

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Otura, who now works in Canada, was with Raila when he escaped death narrowly after police opened fire on them at Thika Stadium during the 1995 chaotic Ford Kenya elections.

Just after the 2017 elections, when his opponents thought he would be jailed for treason after taking an oath as the People’s President, Raila re-emerged from the woods, shook hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta and started a surprise alliance.

Real danger

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A source close to Raila’s security detail says he has been to hell and back. He says they had to change travel plans several times after receiving intelligence that all was not well for Raila.

The latest attempt on Raila’s life was in November 2017 at the height of the presidential campaigns. Media reports indicated that Raila’s car had been shot at as he drove from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) upon returning into the country from an overseas trip.

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In his book, Flames of Freedom, Raila speaks of several other instances when his life was in real danger, but always re-emerged to soldier on with his political fights.

The most blood chilling narrative is his escape from a police hit squad that wanted to arrest and possibly kill him in 1991, just a few years after he was released from detention following his alleged hand in the abortive 1982 coup.

Raila was under siege from undercover Special Branch officers, hovering around his home in Nairobi and sending him threatening messages.

He had to disguise himself as a Catholic priest, change his name thrice and escape in a boat to Uganda through Lake Victoria with police and government agents in hot pursuit.

Raila returned to the country just in time for the 1992 General Election where he contested and won the Lang’ata parliamentary seat.

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ODM leaderRaila OdingaProverbial cat