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Odinga, a household name in Africa’s political history

By | May 27th 2010

After losing the 1992 elections, the ‘Young Turks’ who had been all over Jaramogi, conveniently disappeared from him, one after the other.

Jaramogi then had to revert to his traditional associates. Inwardly, he was a disappointed man indeed.

One of Jaramogi’s initial shortcomings in politics was his attitude towards young, educated Africans whom he distrusted.

He categorised them as ones who could easily be subservient to confusion by the colonial authority. He, therefore, turned to older people for advice and support.

Political struggle

Jaramogi had another dilemma, and that was his approach to issues during the political struggle for independence.

He saw the goal of African politicians, but was not clear on the best approach to realise it.

Like most of his political colleagues, he initially lacked clear direction to follow to achieve that desired objective. In the absence of other options, he chose the confrontational approach as the best course to reach the goal.

The rough choice he took pitted him squarely against the colonial authorities to the chagrin of his political colleagues.

He had now stepped on the toes of everybody and even at times using untoward language.

Jaramogi’s resilience in the event of adversities in both the Kenyatta and Moi administration was a phenomenon that catapulted his image across the country and earned him respect among many Kenyans as a man of principle.

He had a tough character that never gave in easily for a cause he believed in.

Sometime in late January 1993, he sent for a professor at the University of Nairobi and I to his Lavington home.

He wanted to hear our opinion on what had happened. We asked him what he planned to do now that he had lost the election.

Holding my arm, Jaramogi said: "Odera, I would like to go on but my body is tired."

He warned us not to tell anybody else about what he had just told us. He hastened to say: "Remember there is Michael (Kijana Wamalwa)," whom he held in very high regard.

Economic power

It was then that I realised Jaramogi was physically tired.

About three months later, Achieng Oneko politely and diplomatically asked me if Jaramogi had recently talked to me about his health. I answered in the affirmative for I suspected Jaramogi might have confided in him too, about his health.

I watched Jaramogi. He had changed tune and was now pre-occupied with preaching economic power for the community. The Opposition titan finally and genuinely resorted to preaching the gospel of working with the government in power.

That was his new crusade till he succumbed to the ever-lasting night. But it is something he had preached from the days of Maseno Stores. Jaramogi died on January 20, 1994.

As an opposition politician in post independence Kenya, Jaramogi attempted to fight authoritarianism throughout his political career.

The effort was a worthwhile political risk, which has made him a household name in the political history of Kenya, Africa and the world.

© Odinge Odera 2010

Book published by African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF), Nairobi. Copies of the book can be obtained from Book Stop, Yaya Centre, Prestige Bookshop and University of Nairobi bookshop. For enquiries contact:[email protected] or [email protected] or Tel: 8330457

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