Trick Raila Used to Save Sister From Abusive Marriage

  • Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga after his mock swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi's Uhuru Park on February 28, 2019. File
  • ODM leader Raila Odinga's sister Beryl Odinga was married to an aspiring legislator identified as Otieno Ambala in 1974, who saw the Odinga family as stepping stone to political relevance needed for his ambitious bid.

    In Raila's 2014 biography The Flame of Freedom, Raila narrated that Ambala and Beryl had a stormy relationship from the start, and things got worse between them when Ambala succeeded in his bid and became the Member of Parliament for Gem.

    He is reported to have become even more brazen and abusive, forcing Beryl and her children to move out. According to Odinga, Ambala pursued his sister even further, to the workplace and her new home, forcing her to leave the country for Zimbabwe after his (Odinga's) persuasion.

    Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga with his sister Beryl Odinga, Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyongo and Zimbabwean Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa at a meeting in Zimbabwe in 2019. Raila helped his sister escape an abusive marriage by arranging for her to take a trip to Zimbabwe.
    Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga with his sister Beryl Odinga, Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyongo and Zimbabwean Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa at a meeting in Zimbabwe in 2019. 

    Raila clarified in his biography that as a family, they had not been elated about the marriage from the start, but Beryl had forced them to grant her blessings to get married to him.

    Ambala, then a powerful minister in the government, wrote to the Kenya High Commission in Harare to complain about an illegal immigrant who had taken residence in the country after he learned that he was permitted by law to launch such accusations.

    "He had found a proviso in the Kenyan law that gave him great satisfaction; a woman could only have a passport with the permission of her husband," he wrote.

    His letter forced the sorrowful Beryl to return to the country empty-handed, Ambala having already applied his influence to wrestle the children from her custody and fly them back to the country.

    Raila wrote that Ambala had boasted to his friends that the only way he could let Beryl get out of the country was only if she would kneel before him, a matter that infuriated Raila.

    "I wanted to show Ambala that he did not control the world, so I asked Beryl to relax while I made other arrangements. I contacted friends in Uganda and asked whether it would be possible for Beryl to get a Ugandan travel document," he wrote.

    Raila stated that Beryl was issued with a Ugandan diplomatic passport and left for Harare through Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where she was allowed into the country without raising eyebrows.

    Otieno Ambala in an undated photo. The former Gem MP was married to Berly Lilian Achieng’ Odinga but they divorced in 1981 after six years of an abusive marriage.
    Otieno Ambala in an undated photo. The former Gem MP was married to Berly Lilian Achieng’ Odinga but they divorced in 1981 after six years.

    "When news of her triumph reached Ambala, he was furious. He did not know what had happened in Uganda, he only knew that Beryl had been seen in Harare," Raila wrote.

    He further stated that Ambala had his hands tied since by then, Beryl was a Ugandan citizen, which put her completely beyond his jurisdiction.

    Ambala is reported to have passed on in 1985 of a heart attack at Kodiaga Prison following his arrest over the death of former MP Horace Ongili Owiti who had beaten him for the Gem parliamentary seat in 1983.