Prominent Kenyan leaders - Jaramogi Oginga Odinga

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was born in 1912 in Sakwa, Bondo District, Nyanza Province. He attended Maranda primary school then Maseno and Alliance high schools. He proceeded to Makerere University where he graduated in 1939 with a diploma in education. He taught at Maseno from 1940 to 1946 before going into business the following year. He was nominated to the LegCo in 1954 as the representative for Nyanza Province.

He was actively involved in the campaign for the release of Jomo Kenyatta from prison and for the independence of Kenya.

In December 1964, when Kenya became a Republic, Odinga became its first vice president. In 1966 he resigned as a member of KANU. He also resigned as the country’s vice-president. He formed an opposition party known as Kenya People’s Union (KPU) which was banned in 1969 after disturbances that occurred in Kisumu during Kenyatta’s official opening of the New Nyanza Provincial Hospital. Odinga was put under house arrest and later detained with other KPU leaders. He was released the following year.

In the years that followed, Odinga kept trying to be actively involved in politics but was not able because President Kenyatta did not trust him. For example, in 1977, he tried to have a meeting with the president without success. When Moi came to power, Odinga hoped he would go back to active politics but in 1980 he was made the chairman of Cotton and Lint Marketing Board effectively keeping him out of politics. The law in Kenya does not allow officers in government organisations to be involved in politics. The following year he was barred from contesting for the Bondo constituency parliamentary seat after the sitting MP resigned to make way for him. Odinga then attempted to form a political party in 1982 but he could not. The constitution was changed to ensure that Kenya remained a one party state.

After the attempted coup in August 1982, Odinga was put under house arrest again due to suspicion that he may have been involved in the plot. This detention lasted for fourteen months.

When Kenya was agitating for the review of the constitution in 1990 to allow multi-party democracy, Odinga was at the forefront. The constitution was amended at the end of 1991 and Odinga with other politicians such as Kenneth Matiba, Masinde Muliro, Raila Odinga and Martin Shikuku formed a party called Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD). He became its chairman. Just before the 1992 general elections FORD broke up into two parties, FORD-Asili headed by Matiba and FORD-Kenya headed by Odinga. Odinga then contested as a presidential candidate on a FORD-Kenya ticket. He did not win. Moi won.

However, because his party had highest number of seats among the opposition parties, he became the offi cial leader of opposition in the parliament. Odinga served for only two years, and died in Kisumu in 1994. Odinga is remembered as an active opposition politician who always kept the government on its toes, agitating for reforms to improve the political situation in the country.