Raila Reveals Patriotic Gesture That Cost Him Presidency

  • It is common knowledge that many nationalists and political dissidents underwent arbitrary detention and persecution during the Moi era.

    Among the many who paid the price for their unwelcome political opinions, former prime minister and ODM leader Raila Odinga is arguably the best known.

    Detained from 1982 to 1988, Odinga has on numerous times recounted the physical, spiritual, and mental torture that he endured for the sake of his country and what he believed to be right.

    ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event. He wrote in his book that his detention by Moi cost his political seat, as many people were afraid that he would revenge against their community once he ascended to power.

    All that, however, ended up being a curse of sorts, as it cost him the necessary support he needed during the run-up to the 2007 presidential elections.

    In his book  Raila Odinga: The Flame of Freedom, he intimated that the tales behind his detention and torture were the biggest hindrance to his presidential bid in 2007.

    He wrote that in March 2006, he launched a bid to popularize his intended candidature for the crowded ODM presidential nomination, with Kalonzo Musyoka, Julie Ojiambo, William Ruto, and Najib Balala having already launched their manifestos.

    He claimed that everywhere he went, he was dogged by concerns from many individuals who were skeptical, claiming that he was only interested in the presidency was so that he could make those who tortured him in detention and their communities pay for their sins.

    "Wherever I went, it seemed, I was asked for assurance that I would not 'revenge on people' if I became president," he wrote.

    He stated that he was perturbed by such assertions as he had long forgiven those who had taken him through the horrendous torture, and was not keen on revisiting those days.

    He further intimated that even as he went through unspeakable horrors in various detention centers, his war against the regime that ruled with an iron fist was to ensure that no one else in the country was to be subjected to the blatant violation of their human rights and dignity as he had been.

    A cover of Raila Odinga's biography Flames of Freedom. He wrote in the book that he was perturbed to learn that his detention was the Achilles heel in the run for the presidency.

    On the first Sunday of April, which was ironically on April 1, Odinga went to church and addressed the congregation in an attempt to clear the heavy cloud that he saw hovering over his presidential ambitions.

    He aimed to dispell the fear and suspicion surrounding the perceptions concerning his detention, which he had seen as an impediment to his ascension to the top seat.

    "My commitment has always been to a greater, unified, high-functioning Kenya. I have no time for looking backward. Keeping hate in your heart poisons your future, and this means you remain a prisoner without walls," he asserted.

    Though the speech earned him the ODM candidature, he went ahead and lost the presidency to the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, sending the country into unprecedented chaos that left a permanent scar in the face of the nation.