Raila Odinga reflects on his torturous political journey, teary left eye

ODM leader Raila Odinga stepping out with his wife Ida before the Azimio la Umoja convention at Kasarani. [Courtesy]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has opened up about his six-year detention over  involvement in the 1982 coup attempt.

Speaking during the Azimio la Umoja convention at Kasarani in Nairobi where he announced that he will run for the presidency in the 2022 General Election, Raila reflected on his torturous political journey saying he was neither repentant nor regretful of his experience in his fight for a liberated Kenya.

Raila said he bears physical and psychological scars with pride; among them an injury he sustained in his left eye that causes it to tear up.

Holding up a handkerchief for the thousands in attendance to see, the former Prime Minister who was released in February 1988 before being detained six months later, set free in June 1989 then jailed again in 1990 and finally released in 1991, said the hemmed fabric never leaves his hand.

“For months on end, I was either held incommunicado, in solitary confinement or handcuffed and in transit to the next prison or detention camp. Relatives died, including my beloved mother and my own brother, and I never got the chance to say goodbye,” said Raila.

Raila fled to Norway upon release from Kamiti Maximum Prison in June 1991. 

The 76-years-old leader, who has defined the contours of Kenya’s politics for decades, noted that he wouldn't wish the tribulations he went through and the despairing dark days that he endured, on his worst enemy.

“I would not wish this torment upon anyone, not even my worst enemy. Together with my comrades who endured torture and survived those dark days of despair, we would never let Kenya degenerate down the road of terror,” said Raila.

He celebrated fellow political detainees, among them Kenneth Matiba, George Anyona, Martin Shikuku and Jean-Marie Seroney for their sacrifice, vowed not to let the country degenerate into the path of terror again and thanked his wife, Ida Odinga, for her unwavering support during the trying period.

“But there was a positive side to my story. It is about a friend. A ‘Lando’ of legendary beauty, with the brave heart of Luanda Magere. And this is the woman who stood by me when I was shunned by many. This is the wife of my youth, love of my life and partner to death - Mama Ida Betty Odinga,” narrated the ODM leader.

He went on, “In those hard times of long and uncertain incarceration, if I was not reading the Holy Bible, I found deep solace in Mama Ida’s love and support. She became a constant guest of the police cells through constant arrests and harassment. I can’t thank her enough.”

Addressing the convention, Ida, on her part, underscored Raila's commitment to change. She said Raila is capable, loves Kenya and is passionate about serving the nation.

“As a good friend and as my good husband, somebody I have known for years… over 40 years, his love for this nation is the love for the people of Kenya. For many years, Raila has believed that Kenya can be a better place than it is today," said the businesswoman, activist and educator.