Friday, February 10, 2012

Raila Odinga

Raila Amollo Odinga (born January 7, 1945), also popularly known to Kenyans as Agwambo, is the Prime Minister of Kenya in a coalition government. Odinga, a Member of Parliament for Langata since 1992, served as Minister of Energy from 2001 to 2002 and as Minister of Roads, Public Works, and Housing from 2003 to 2005. He was the main opposition candidate in the 2007 presidential election. Following a violent post-electoral crisis, Odinga took office as Prime Minister in April 2008, serving as supervisor of a national unity coalition government.

Odinga is the son of the first Vice President of Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga; Raila's brother, Oburu Odinga, is also currently a Member of Parliament (MP). Raila is commonly known by his first name due to coincidence: he was an MP at the same time as his father between 1992 and 1994, and is currently in the House with Oburu. Raila was a presidential contender in the 1997 elections, coming third after President Daniel arap Moi of KANU and Mwai Kibaki, the current president of Kenya and then a member of the Democratic Party. Odinga campaigned to run for president in the December 2007 elections on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket.

On September 1, 2007, Raila Odinga was elected as the presidential candidate of the ODM. He garnered significant support in the 2007 General Election, with majority of the votes in Rift Valley, Western, his native Nyanza, Coast, Nairobi (Capital) and North Eastern provinces. Kibaki led in his native Central province and beat Raila in Eastern province. Out of the 2007 elections, his party, ODM, got 99 out of 210 seats in the parliament, making the ODM the single largest party in parliament.

On December 30, 2007, the chairman of the Kenyan election commission controversially declared Raila's opponent, incumbent president Kibaki, the winner of the presidential election by a margin of about 230,000 votes. Raila disputed the results, alleging fraud by the election commission but refused to adhere to the constitutional procedure and present an election petition before the courts. Most opinion polls had speculated that Odinga would defeat president Kibaki. Independent international observers have since stated that the poll was marred by irregularities favouring both PNU and ODM, especially at the final vote tallying stages. Many ODM supporters across the country rioted against the announced election results.

Early Life
Raila Odinga was born at Maseno Church Missionary Society Hospital, in Maseno, Kisumu District, Nyanza Province on January 7, 1945 to Oginga and Mary Juma Odinga. He went to Kisumu Union Primary School, Maranda Primary and High School where he stayed until 1962. He spent the next two years at the Herder Institut, a part of the philological faculty at the University of Leipzig in East Germany. He received a scholarship that in 1965 sent him to the Technical University, Magdeburg (now a part of Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg) in the GDR. In 1970, he graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. While studying in East Berlin during the Cold War, as a Kenyan he was able to visit West Berlin through the Checkpoint Charlie. When visiting West Berlin, he used to buy goods not available in East Berlin and bring them to his friends in East Berlin.

On returning to Kenya in 1970, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. In 1971 he established the Standard Processing Equipment Construction & Erection Ltd (later renamed East African Spectre), a company manufacturing liquid petroleum gas cylinders. In 1974, he was appointed group standards manager of the Kenya Bureau of Standards, in 1978 he was promoted to its Deputy Director, a post he held until his 1982 detention.

Personal Life
Baptised as an Anglican in his youth Odinga later became a Born-Again Christian through an Evangelical church in Nairobi.

Odinga is married to Ida Odinga (born Ida Anyango Oyoo). They live in Karen, Nairobi (but have a second home at Opoda Farm, Bondo District). They have four children—two sons and two daughters: Fidel (born 1973), Rosemary (1977), Raila Jr (1979) and Winnie (1990). Fidel is named after Fidel Castro and Winnie after Winnie Mandela. Winnie is currently studying Communication and International Area Studies as a double major student at Drexel University of Philadelphia, PA.

In a January 2008 BBC interview, Odinga asserted that he was the first cousin of U.S. president Barack Obama through Obama's father. However, Barack Obama's paternal uncle denied any direct relation to Odinga, stating "Odinga's mother came from this area, so it is normal for us to talk about cousins. But he is not a blood relative." Obama's father came from the same Luo community as Odinga.

He briefly played soccer for Luo Union (later known as Re-Union) as a midfielder.

Raila Odinga is an industrialist with interests in liquefied gas cylinder manufacturing (the East African Spectre), industrial ethanol production and Petroleum import and distribution.

Mr. Odinga has been appointed by African Union to mediate in Ivory Coast between Outarra and Gbagbo.

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