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Mukami Kimathi homage: Raila retraces father’s steps 50 years later

By Amos Kareithi | October 21st 2021

Raila Odinga, Mama Mukami, Jaramogi Oginga, Jomo Kenyatta and Uhuru Kenyatta. [File Standard]

When former Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited Kayole this week, he unwittingly followed in his father's footsteps in search of blessings. He sought out 91-year-old Mukami Kimathi, widow of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi.

Raila believed that Mukami's support was crucial in his quest for the presidency. When pictures of Raila receiving blessings from Mukami emerged, they triggered memories of another trip, about five decades ago, by the former PM's father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

When Odinga fell out with Jomo Kenyatta, the two resorted to some contest. And when things completely fell apart in 1966, Jaramogi was kicked out of Kanu. He formed his own party, Kenya People's Union. 

When MPs who subscribed to Jaramogi's political ideologies resigned, they occasioned a mini general election. The two giants fought for survival and relevance as a defeat for Kenyatta would have meant a no-confidence in his government.

It is against this background that the two went flat out in wooing supporters. Mukami was conflicted since both were her friends.

She recalls how both men sent emissaries, each beseeching her to support his cause. Mukami relives her dilemma in her autobiography, Mukami KImathi: Mau Mau freedom fighter.

Mukami blesseses ODM leader Raila Odinga (R) at her home in Komarock, Nairobi. October 17, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

"Both Kenyatta and Jaramogi constantly sought me out for support and to hear my opinion on the Mau Mau position on what was going on in the country. Their differences were increasingly framed by their followers in the ethnic lens as the Gikuyu verses Luo," she writes.

According to Mukami, the country was tense and things worsened after Cabinet Minister Tom Mboya was assassinated in July 1969.

Mukami says she was conflicted because one of Jaramogi's associates, Achieng Oneko, was a close friend of her husband. She was also close to Jaramogi and Kenyatta.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (left), Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya, 1962. [File, Standard]

Around that time, one of the estates in Eastlands, Nairobi, where she had been arrested earlier in the freedom struggle had been named Kimathi after her husband. Mukami's life was entwined with freedom struggle and she could not run away from the political discourse which took traction in the 70s championed by, among others, Willy Mutunga and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

Fifty years later, the sons of Jomo and Jaramogi have patched up their political difference and are now reading from the same script. Raila, who has been at Karunaini in Nyeri where Kimathi was shot, still needs Mukami's support in his quest for the presidency.

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