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Winnie, Kalonzo son: Political scions cut from different cloth

 Winnie Odinga and Kennedy Kalonzo. [File, Standard]

Winnie Odinga prefers not to be identified as an appendage of her famous family but as a budding politician who is charting her own path.

Her name and fellow East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) member Kennedy Kalonzo have featured in news over the past week after some politicians opposed their appointment.

Opponents argued that they were fovoured because they are daughter and son of prominent politicians Raila Odinga and fellow Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance partner Kalonzo Musyoka.

But Winnie strongly defended her nomination, arguing that she was equal to the task and also expressed displeasure at the electronic media for calling her Raila’s daughter when she has six names.

“I have travelled the region, I have studied it and I know it well. We lose when we compete against each other instead of working together,” says Winnie as she highlighted her suitability for the well-paying job.

After her nomination, Winnie tweeted: “As the biggest economy in the region, it’s time for Kenya to roar and lead in bringing the EAC together. I believe I know how.”

She thereafter drew a lot of support from Kenyans who called on parliament to approve the nomination and stop profiling her because of her relationship with the ODM leader.

“I've never been a fan of Winnie Odinga but this weird treatment she is facing by owning "Odinga" in her six names is sickening. Our MPs should sober up and send this vibrant, intelligent and proactive woman to EALA! Tuweke sasa siasa kando, tuwache chuki na upuzi bana,” tweeted one supporter.

Winnie now becomes the first scion in the Raila family to assume political office, thus following the footsteps of her famous father, a journey that could perhaps lead to bigger opportunities in future.

She played a big role in her father’s presidential campaign early this year, especially at the secretariat as the person in charge of corporate communication and branding of the candidate.

Although some party officials blamed her for allegedly being overbearing and exerting too much influence during the campaigns, others say she was a team player who did everything to make them succeed.

“She is a perfectionist who always wanted things done properly, sometimes spending her own money to make it happen and was therefore very instrumental in everything we did,” says Philip Etale, the ODM Director of Communications.

He argues that Winnie and Kennedy merited the positions of MP at EALA because they are both self-driven individuals who will serve the country well.

Etale describes them as people of opposite traits because Winnie is an outspoken personality who does not shy away from controversial issues while Kennedy is more reserved.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka with his son Kennedy. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

“Winnie is her own self and not just brand Odinga. She will be lively in the assembly but Kennedy has been there and he is going for the second term,” he added.

In his book Treason – The case Against Tyrants and Renegades, lawyer Miguna Miguna describes the role Winnie played in the swearing-in of her father as the people president after the 2013 disputed elections.

Miguna writes that on Sunday, December 9, 2017, he was called to former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama's house where he spent the next five hours drafting Raila’s speech and finalised the oath, which were reviewed, corrected and approved by Muthama and then Senator James Orengo.

About 3pm, the three were driven out in Muthama’s Mercedes Benz vehicles to businessman Jimmy Wanjigi’s house in Muthaiga where they watched soccer and ate lunch.

"After about fifteen minutes, Winnie arrived. She did not look happy. I soon realized that we were supposed to swear Raila in at Wanjigi’s house that afternoon,” writes Miguna.

Raila is said to have arrived in Muthaiga at 3:30 pm dressed in jeans, a casual shirt and sports jacket while speaking on the phone.

Orengo later briefed Raila on the draft speech and oath and when Miguna handed him copies of both, which he glanced over quickly and made one minor correction.

The ODM leader allegedly pointed at three suit bags inside his Toyota V8 vehicle as evidence that he came ready to be sworn in on December 9 but his daughter Winnie differed.

"He is lying," she blurted, walking towards me. "He would never wear those suits for the swearing-in ceremony, or to any important function," Miguna quotes Winnie as having said.

This week Miguna Miguna is among those who challenged the nomination of Winnie and Kennedy to EALA, accusing the two families of promoting political dynasty.

"Winnie Odinga is not qualified to be a member of EALA. Using the last name "ODINGA" as an ornament is not a qualification for public office. The Odinga family has abused abuse!" Miguna tweeted.

Winnie has however emerged as an outspoken woman who is not shy to defend the position of her father and the interests of young people and girls in the country.

She says communities do great disservice to girls, because: “We raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.”

Unlike Kennedy, Winnie has dived into the choppy waters of politics and has in the process taken all the smear and dirt that comes with it.

Raila Odinga with his daughter Winnie at Harare airport, Zimbabwe, February 2018. [File, Standard]

Speaking in a TV interview this week, she said the name Odinga has gotten her into trouble, abused, blamed for many things and persecuted.

But on the flip side it has also been a blessing and it is therefore a name she will be proud to defend, although she hastened that it does not define Winnie.

To succeed in politics, players must be ready for all kinds of challenges, which she is ready for.

"He who has mingled in the fray of duty that the brave endure, must have made foes. If you have none, small is the work that you have done. You’ve never turned wrong to right. You’ve been a coward in the fight," she quotes Charles Mackay.

Like her father, Winnie is fond of discussing continental issues and championing for the rights of the underprivileged across Africa.

"In every major airport on this continent, there is a dingy room filled with fellow Africans. How in the age of the AU are African governments terming fellow Africans illegal aliens while foreigners can enter the continent visa-free," she contends.

Winnie is the fourth-born child of Raila and Ida Odinga. She was named after the late South African President Nelson Mandela's ex-wife, the late Winnie Mandela- a South African apartheid heroine.

As for Kennedy, Etale says he appears to be a person who unlike his father prefers to be very private and non-confrontational.

In 2017, his nomination to EALA stirred controversy after some MPs opposed it claiming that he had been picked because he was the son of Nasa presidential running mate Kalonzo Musyoka.

The Leader of Majority in the National Assembly at the time Aden Duale protested and rallied MPs not to allow any form of political dynasty in the EALA nominations.

But just as happened this week that storm cooled off and all nominations, including that of Raila’s elder brother Oburu Oginga were approved by parliament.

Although critics look at him as “laid back” politician, Kennedy describes himself as his own man who has been an active member of the Wiper party that sponsored his nomination.

Kennedy is Kalonzo's first-born child who grew up in Nairobi and went to local schools before moving to Australia for university studies.