RUTH ODINGA: Raila used to carry Uhuru and I on his back

Posted: August 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


Q: You once worked as a teacher in the Gambia. Why did you quit?

– I’m not a professional teacher, but was volunteering under the Voluntary Service Organisation Services in the Gambia and was
posted as a teacher of geography.

A: Why did you join politics?

– Of all Jaramogi’s children, I’m the only one who resembles him. I’m exactly his height. Look at his
pictures and look at me. If I was a man, you would mistake me for him. In 1969, I was only six years
old when I got to the platform of politics. I was going round with my father to most of the rallies
and he would give me the microphone to say hello
to the crowd … I was outgoing and would welcome visitors at home. Being the last born, I was the favourite of the family so I would accompany my father to all his rallies.
Q: Is it true that Raila pushed you to go for the position of Kisumu governor?

– My family never supported me in this race. Raila did not support me. He was actually against the
idea. He called a meeting and demanded that I step down because there were too many people from the family in the race.
I told them that any of them, Raila included, can step down but I was not going to do it. I had played a big role in the ‘Yes’ (2010 Constitution referendum) campaign and was going round the Nyanza region appealing for the women’s vote. I was standing to support women’s cause, not a
family cause. Raila has played a very big role in my political life,
but he never supported me to vie as the Kisumu County governor (but I later settled for deputy
governor), and even his close friends were saying that I was spoiling votes for Raila.

Q: You are the chairlady of the Kenya Women Governors Association. What have you achieved?

– Through our organisation, we are looking for ways of empowering women starting with those in the county assemblies. They should have a voice to pass the bills that benefit them. Women should be empowered economically; they must get ways of making money. We are
encouraging them to start table banking and invest to buy land and build houses.

Q: Your brother twice got very close to becoming President. How did you feel?

– As an ordinary voter, a supporter of the party and supporter of Raila Odinga, I felt that it (election) was not conducted well. It does not make a difference that I’m the sister. I’m a political person who has her own beliefs and convictions. Raila is known as someone who can lead the country. This is a fact and not just because he is my brother.

Q: Do you think it is time for him to retire from politics?

– Not really. Raila still has unfinished business with Kenyans. He helped bring devolution and now that there are wrangles we still need brains like his to take this country forward. Every woman has a way of bringing up her baby — this being Raila’s baby, we still need him to see how he brings it up. I’m not talking as Raila’s sister, but as a woman who has benefited from devolution; I can now be in office as a deputy governor in Kenya. We have nominated women in the assemblies who now have a voice to the fight for the rights of women.

Q: What is your family’s relationship with Uhuru Kenyatta?

– You will not believe what I’m about to say but it is the truth.
There is no bad relationship between Uhuru and Raila as people put it; the two have a long history. When we were young, Raila would carry us (Uhuru
and I) on his back and we grew up together as family friends. When our father (Jaramogi Oginga Odinga) was vice-president and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the
President, we would visit each other. Uhuru would even visit us in our home in Kisumu and we would also visit them. At times I ask why they are hitting at each other. The friends you make earlier in life are your friends forever and that is the truth. We
were friends and forever we will remain friends.

Q: Which woman do you admire most?

– Anne Waiguru (Devolution Cabinet Secretary). She is an energetic woman. She stood firm when she was being hit left, right and centre by the men. She stood by her values. I would like to emulate her. And she has this cool and elegant dressing style
that I admire so much.

Q: What is the source of the leadership quest in your family?

– What people do not know is that my mother was a leader. The qualities came from my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s father, Ngong’a Odima, was a senior chief in Central Nyanza. When you look at Jakoyo
Midiwo, he has the leadership qualities because he is my cousin from my maternal side.
My mom brought the telo (leadership) that we had in Sakwa because when you look at our cousins from my paternal father they are not in the race.

Q: How do you balance your time with family now that all your children are outside the country?

– My children are always here. They just go out of the country to study. I have two sons and have
adapted six others.

Q: What’s the one thing we don’t know about Ruth Odinga?

– When I was in primary school and my father was under house arrest, I played a very big role
politically. I was the only one who was being sent by his political friends to deliver letters to him. I
would put them in different parts of my body and ensured I sweet-talked the security people at the
gate to pass without being frisked. This was very important for my father.

Q: What is your favourite music?

– I love Lingala. Also give me Millie Jackson and you will see some very strange styles. We were the hottest in the 1970s. I am the best dancer in our family. Raila would never come close.

Q: Where do you shop for your bags, shoes and clothes?

– I do most of my shopping in London but in Kenya I used to shop at Westgate Mall. In fact, I was supposed to be at Westgate on the day it was attacked last September. I think my God loves me so much and he still wants me to help women.

Source: Daily Nation


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