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Hero's welcome for Fidel Odinga’s body in Kisumu

By KEVINE OMOLLO and RUSHDIE OUDIA | Jan 10th 2015 | 5 min read

The body of Fidel Odinga, first son of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga touched down at Kisumu International Airport Kisumu aboard a Kenya Air Force plane Friday morning.

And in a rare episode, there were three military choppers including a VIP aircraft. Raila flew in a VIP aircraft while the body was flown in a separate one.

Even though Fidel was not a government official, the presence of the national government was strongly felt as the casket arrived at the airport. The first to arrive was the Kenya Air Force chopper which touched down at 9.43am.

This was followed by the white VIP Kenya Air Force aircraft.

Raila, his wife Ida, brother Oburu Oginga, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leaders including Senators James Orengo (Siaya), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), ODM Chairman John Mbadi, former Westlands Member of Parliament Fred Gumo and close relatives were in the plane.

It is understood that President Uhuru Kenyatta had allocated at least three military choppers towards the funeral of his fallen friend, Fidel.

Ten minutes later another Air Force plane 212 arrived carrying the casket of Fidel. Fidel’s widow Lwam Bekele, Raila Junior (Fidel’s brother) and other close members of their families were also on board.

Earlier, the Kenya Wildlife Service plane and two chatter planes had landed carrying people believed to have been headed to the funeral.

Although the former Prime Minister, who is the leader of the opposition CORD and has castigated Kenyatta’s administration well over an year now, the treatment seemed to have been a show of respect for the man who has served the government in various positions.

Governors Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya) and Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay) were among the leaders who received the body at the airport.

MPs Fred Outa (Nyando), Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Ken Obura (Kisumu Central) Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay Women Representative) and her Kisumu counterpart Rose Nyamunga among area Members of County Assembly (MCAs) and County Executive Members were also present.
At the airport, Kisumu Rugby Football Club (KRFC) players offloaded the casket from the plane donning their jerseys in honour of their fallen chairman.

The presence of huge security personnel including General Service Unit, Kenya Police, Administration Police and Traffic Police was also prominent in Kisumu town, along Kisumu-Busia road and at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground where there was a mass and public viewing of the body.

Security was also tight at the Kisumu International Airport as three Land Rover vehicles carrying GSU officers were on standby and at least four GSU and Kenya Police Service officers situated at every 100 metres from the airport to the Jomo Kenyatta Sports ground.

There were also two National Youth Service (NYS) lorries carrying officers attached to the elite Recce squad.

Fidel’s marriages

Hundreds of mourners thronged the airport as early as 7am while others lined up along Kisumu streets to bid Fidel farewell.

Police had a hard time controlling the crowd as mourners surged towards the ambulance carrying the body hence and the convoy could not easily penetrate into the crowded venue for the mass.

Mourners who were now surging towards the airport were repulsed to avoid confusion that would have led to slow movement of the body to the Jomo Kenyatta Sports ground.

Mr Ranguma gave a short address at the airport detailing the order of movement which included police vans at the front, followed by the van carrying Raila and his family, the hearse, the van carrying the widow followed by area leaders and other vehicles for friends and the public.

Thereafter, the convoy of hundreds of vehicles slowly left the airport and snaked its way through Kisumu city amid wails of thousands of mourners who had lined on both sides of the road to the Moi stadium.

The public was allowed to view Fidel’s body before it was taken to his father’s Opoda farm in Bondo for night vigil. Fidel will be buried at the family’s graveyard-Kang’o Ka-jaramogi today.

And Raila has said his family recognises Lwam Bekele as Fidel’s widow. The former PM who was addressing mourners in Kisumu during the public viewing of the body at Jomo Kenyatta grounds reiterated the family’s commitment to retaining the legacy of their fallen son by keeping Lwam.

He said even though Fidel had earlier married, he parted ways with the first wife through a mutual agreement after the marriage failed, before he got another wife (Lwam).

“As you know Fidel had a wife before Lwam, but he came to me and explained that the marriage could not work due to disagreements. He told me he had decided to ‘import’ a wife and that is how he ended up introducing Lwam as his new wife,” said Raila.

He added; “It is painful that he (Fidel) had to leave the young lady (Lwam) at this age but I want to assure you that we will take good care of the lady.”

The late Fidel’s ex-wife Veronica Wanjiru Nganga turned up at the ‘Friends of Fidel’ fund-raiser on Tuesday evening at Cedars Club in Nairobi and expressed her condolences on his sudden demise.

She was also present during a funeral mass at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi where Raila recognised her presence by asking her to wave to the crowd after identifying her as Fidel’s ex-wife. During the same event, Raila Odinga Junior, Fidel’s younger brother also reiterated the family’s desire to continue Fidel’s legacy.

In Kisumu, Lwam who was invited by Raila to address the crowd, was overwhelmed with grief as the charged crowd filled the air with cry and ululation. “What I can say is that Fidel loved the people of Kisumu and the people of Kisumu have also shown that they loved him,” said Lwam.

Fidel left behind a son, Allay Raila Odinga, and a trust fund has been established to support the family.

Idda Odinga however challenged the youth to emulate Fidel by loving and supporting one another, as well as his vision. “My late son (Fidel) had great vision and I would be glad if his fellow youths like you could emulate him,” said Ida.

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