Raila Odinga’s 2019 in review: from bedroom politics to the BBI

Raila begun the year by hosting Uhuru at a high profile birthday party in January

Raila Odinga’s 2019 in review: from bedroom politics to the BBI

ODM Leader Raila Odinga has had a remarkable 2019 and as the year ends, it is interesting to see the highlights of the former Prime Minister’s political life.

Odinga started the year on a high note after he hosted President Uhuru Kenyatta at a high-profile birthday celebration at Odinga’s holiday home in Nyali, Mombasa.

The celebration marked the continuation of public bromance that had started in March 9 after the famous handshake and which continued to blossom in 2019.

Shortly after the birthday celebration in Mombasa, President Kenyatta’s younger brother Muhoho Kenyatta, known for his behind the scenes political power, attended Odinga’s Bondo home for the 25th anniversary celebrating the life of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

In the same month, Raila got a major political victory after CS Rashid Echesa, with whom they had an ugly political altercation, was fired from the Cabinet.

Echesa’s replacement in the Cabinet was Prof George Magoha, who hails from Raila’s home county of Siaya.

Odinga’s allies have also been given strategic parastatal jobs over the past year. Among those who have been picked include Prof Adamds Oloo who was in May appointed to the board of the Kenya School of Government.

Oloo is a key advisor to Odinga and served as the joint secretary of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce. NASA CEO Newton Magaya also landed a state appointment.

The BBI report was Odinga’s pet project in 2019 which he hailed as the solution to Kenya’s problems and one which would wipe away naysayers like a tsunami.

While the BBI report finally came, it lacked many of the recommendations Odinga’s allies had demanded.

ODM had called for a parliamentary system of government that would be headed by a ceremonial President and would have an Executive Prime Minister. The changes would also be brought through a referendum as per the wishes of the orange party.

While most of these recommendations were not presented in the final copy of the BBI report, the release of the launch offered Odinga the chance to demonstrate his growing political power in the Jubilee government.

Speakers at the launch were carefully selected, many of them his closest allies and advisors, much to the frustration of Ruto’s supporters, the DP being Raila’s perceived nemesis.

Ho, when, and if the BBI report will be implemented remains to be seen in 2020 but there is no doubt Raila will remember 2019 as the year of the BBI.

By-elections

The ODM Leader has had mixed results when it comes to by-elections. In April, Odinga’s ODM suffered one of the most humiliating defeats after losing a parliamentary by-election in Ugenya which is in the former Prime Minister’s home county of Siaya.

The loss served as political fodder for Odinga’s rivals who accused him of having lost the fanatical following he has historically enjoyed in Luo Nyanza.

ODM would later lose another seat after the death of Ken Okoth of Kibra.

Odinga’s rivals, buoyed by his loss of the Ugenya seat, marshaled their political forces and camped in kibra with the hope of a major win that would completely deflate Odinga.

Unlike in Ugenya where ODM had assumed a win would be guaranteed, there were no chances in Kibra and the orange party engaged a robust political campaign to secure what they christened Baba’s bedroom.

Ultimately, Odinga’s candidate, Imran Okoth, won overwhelmingly and managed to solidify ODM’s hold on Nairobi politics.

It is a win that probably became Raila’s early Christmas gift from the people of Kibra who had voted for him for twenty years.

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