There is one decision of his life that must have haunted Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Raila's father) to his grave. And that little incident is very relevant to Raila's bid for the highest office in the land in the 2007 general elections.
It all happened in the early 60s. Independence was looming and analysts noted that chances were high that the country's first president would be a rather young but brilliant politician who was barely 30 years of age. His name was Tom Mboya and he happened to be a Luo although he was so cosmopolitan that you wouldn't know it. Representing constituencies at the heart of Nairobi all his political life, he drew most of his political support from the Kikuyu.
The much older Jaramogi could not bear seeing Tom Mboya ascending to be the first President of Kenya, he devised a strategy to ensure that the young arrogant Luo's ambition's would be thwarted. There was no way the young upstart who should have been looking up to him as the older Luo would ascend to the presidency while Jaramogi just watched. He stood up in parliament (Legislative Council in those days) and demanded that Jomo Kenyatta be released before Kenya could negotiate independence with the colonial government.
Thus Jaramogi set in motion a chain of events that was destined to ensure that the Luo community in Kenya would always live like second-class citizens, frustrated on every front and with the anti-Luo propaganda that followed the banning of KPU in 1969, the fate of the Luo community was sealed.
Today it is difficult to convince most Kenyans that a Luo can make a good president. Thanks mainly to Kenyatta's vigorous anti-Luo propaganda (naturally targeted at their leadership abilities) the politics of Kenya is such that this community is always at a great disadvantage.
Reading online forums and even messages from readers in this blog, it is clear that most younger Kenyans growing up, unaware of this key historical fact view Luos as violent, uncircumcised trouble makers who are not to be trusted and if elected to the presidency will turn Kisumu into the capital city of Kenya. If that is the view of those who use computers and the Internet, you can imagine how bad things are deep in the villages.
I am not a Luo by tribe, but having studied this subject in great detail over many years, I can confidently say that life has always been and continues to be extremely challenging for any Luo in Kenya simply because of their tribe. Even if a Luo falls in love with some nice girl or gentleman who does not belong to their tribe (God forbid if it is a Kikuyu) chances are that the relationship will be frustrated at every turn. You can imagine losing the love of your life because of where you come from and not who you are (i.e. your character).
To add insult to injury, the number of political assassinations in Kenya has claimed more Luo lives than any other community. Then the three administrations so far have been wary of the Luo and as a result national politicians from the Luo community have always found themselves being constantly pushed to the periphery in spite of their well known potential. For instance the intellectual capabilities of the Luo is very well known.
And woe unto you if you are a non-Luo that tries to analyze this situation from a neutral point of view. You will be quickly branded a Luo. Many casual readers of this blog will tell you that it is financed by Raila Odinga. We have earned that label simply for telling the truth as it is clearly depicted by Kenyan history.
All this was started by a chain of events triggered off by the older Odinga. A rash moment of political jealousy has caused great suffering to the Luo people. There are those who believe (this writer is certainly NOT one of them) that because of this a Luo will never occupy State House.
It is ironic that the obstacles that Raila Odinga has had to overcome in his political career so far were caused mainly by his own father. And if there was a price to be given for the Kenyan politician who has made the most sacrifices, then Raila would win it hands down.
There are some analysts who are even convinced that simply because of this jinx on the Luo brought about by Raila's father, Raila himself will never ascend to the presidency. The facts on the ground and current trends seem to support this view. To start with Raila is running out of time and if he does not make it to State House this time round, then chances are that he never will.
This is a really sad story for those who know the inside details. But it seems that in spite of the fact that Raila and the Luo community have given more sacrifices than any other person and community in fighting for Kenya's second liberation, the mood this time round seems to favor younger leadership and a genuine fresh start for the nation. Sadly Raila cannot provide either.
If we were to place the issue of age aside for a minute, then we would still be left to face the fact that Raila's brainchild, ODM Kenya is packed with former Kanu vultures (all dressed in sheep’s clothing) and victory for many of these leading characters would not augur well for the future of Kenya, let alone give the nation the fresh start it so badly needs. Then there is the excess baggage Raila would have to bring into his presidency, as he would definitely have to reward these characters for helping him to ascend to power. This would make a serious fight against that public enemy number one called corruption, very difficult, if not downright impossible.