Thursday, 25 May 2017

Flames of Freedom extract

The Flame Of Freedom

That was around the time
Raila quietly boarded a
motorboat at Ndeda Beach in
Bondo at 4pm and sailed with
other passengers at night to
Uganda without being noticed.
Travelling under different
names, sometimes dressed as
a priest and other times as a
Sheikh, Raila staged a
dramatic escape from Kenya
by boat at night, through Lake
Victoria to Uganda then to
Norway, to avoid arrest just
before a 1991 Forum for
Restoration of Democracy
rally at Kamukunji, Nairobi.
That day, Raila was
introduced to Kisumu and
Ugenya as Father Augustine
from Machakos, complete
with a priest’s robe.
He arrived in Uganda under
the name of Joseph Ojiwa
Wadeya. By the time he was
leaving Uganda for Norway,
his name had changed to Haji
Omar, going to Mecca on
pilgrimage, complete with a
kanzu and a fez.
The Lang’ata MP would
probably be dead today had
he not made this dramatic
Raila remembers in his
biography that as the Ford
Young Turks and the six
elderly men were mobilising
for the Kamukunji rally, a US
Embassy official, Alan
Eastham, told him they had
intelligence that the
Government was panicking
and blaming Raila for all the
tension that had gripped the
country then.
According to the US Embassy,
the Government believed Raila
was the man behind the
movement despite the fact
that Raila held no leadership
position in Ford.
The Embassy told Raila that
he was likely to be arrested
two days before the October
5, 1991 rally. It was not going
to be an ordinary arrest.
"The Moi Government had
concluded that Raila no longer
feared detention and Eastham
warned that they could do
him physical harm or
assassinate him. The advice
was that Raila should take
care," the biography, Raila
Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan
Politics, says.
Police raided Raila’s offices
in Agip House, but missed
him, as he had gone to lawyer
James Orengo’s office within
the building.
A team of lawyers, including
Martha Karua, Japheth
Shamalla, Martha Koome and
media houses were soon at
hand to witness the siege.
The raid was foiled. But the
struggle was not over.
It was after this that Raila,
Orengo and Anyang’ Nyong’o
decided that it was too risky
to play games with "a
desperate enemy".
From this time on, Raila’s life
changed. A decision was
taken that Raila should go
The solidarity of the Young
Turks paid off for him. At that
time, Raila, Mukhisa Kituyi,
Paul Muite, Oki Ooko Ombaka,
Karua, Kiraitu Murungi,
Gibson Kamau Kuria, among
others, were allies against
After a night at Orengo’s
place, Nyong’o, Raila and
Orengo decided that even that
place was not safe enough.
Another "trustworthy friend"
took over when Raila moved
to the home of Dr Kituyi, a
long time activist who had
been expelled with Otieno
Kajwang’ from the University
of Nairobi for their role in
student politics.
Nyong’o drove Raila to
Kituyi’s place where the
Lang’ata MP stayed for a
week while police hunted for
On the first night at Kituyi’s
place, police raided Raila’s
home in Kileleshwa.
Ida, now used to battles with
the police, refused to open,
insisting the man was not at
She pretended to be looking
for the keys, while she was in
fact calling the press.
She asked the watchman to
count the police loudly. When
he reached 17 they beat him
Then they left with a message
to Ida to tell Raila, "if he was
man enough, he should come
to the police station and they
would know who they were."
It was time to get Raila out of
Kituyi’s house, to the US
Embassy. The task fell on
Kituyi’s wife, Ling, who had
to take him through the many
roadblocks without police
She changed Raila’s beards
and hair, fixed him with
glasses and took him to the
Embassy with Dr Kituyi
driving and Nyong’o
The Embassy gave audience
to Raila, but was not willing
to host him. Earlier, it had
given exile to Kamau Kuria, to
Moi’s chagrin.
That day, Raila went to
Nyong’o’s house, fearing that
police would follow him to
Kituyi’s house.
Muite showed up. They
decided Raila needed to be
moved to a friend who was
less politically active. They
moved him to Jalang’o
Anyango’s residence in
Loresho where he stayed for
another week.
From here, Raila issued a
statement that his life was in
danger. Moi, on the other
hand gave an interview where
he said Kenya was a one-
party State by law and those
going against that were guilty.
The die was cast.
The Catholic Church took over
Raila’s issue, with Archbishop
Zacheaus Okoth plotting how
to get Raila out of Nairobi.
Raila moved to his sister-in-
law’s house, met his children
and promised them he would
never go into detention again.
A white American nun and a
Kenyan priest Father Mak’
Opiyo, dressed in their
religious dresses, got Raila
out of Nairobi.
They also dressed Raila as a
priest, gave him glasses and
with a clean-shaven head,
Raila became a different
Sitting on the back seat, Raila
read newspapers as they
passed police roadblocks,
where they were easily waved
That day, even Kisumu could
not recognise Raila. When the
three reached the Catholic
Station in Kisumu, the two
priests booked a disguised
Raila as Father Augustine
from Machakos.
He was later transferred to
Rang’ala Mission in Ugenya
where, again, he was booked
in as Father Augustine. His
father sent a car to collect
him at midnight.
It was time for Raila to leave
the country by boat. At 4pm,
Raila went to Olago beach in
Bondo and boarded a diesel-
powered boat.
The lake was rough that
evening, and the driver had to
collect other passengers at
Ndeda island. They left Ndeda
at 8pm and headed for
"The boat moved slowly using
only the moon and the stars
for navigation on an initially
calm night," the biography
After two hours, the driver,
Hezron Orori, who was also
carrying one of his wives who
was sick, announced that they
were in Uganda.
That provided some relief for
Raila, before a heavy storm
hit the lake. It was cold, and
Orori’s sick wife began to
"Raila lent her his jacket and
became cold himself," the
writer says.
Raila turned to a bottle of
Vodka a friend had given him.
It gave him some warmth.
Raila spent the night in
Sigulu, one of the formerly
Kenyan islands that had been
annexed by Idi Amin.
Here, with the help of
sympathetic Kenyans,
Ugandans and Tanzanians,
Raila acquired Ugandan
papers. But his name
He became Joseph Ojiwa
In Kampala, Raila landed in
the hands of a friend who had
worked for his company, the
East African Spectre, who
reported his arrival to the
United Nations High
Commission for Refugees.
Uganda reported to Kenyan
authorities that Raila was
there. There was fear that
Kenyan intelligence forces in
Kampala could abduct Raila
and return him home.
UNHCR asked Raila to remain
underground saying Kenya
had sent security forces to
search for him. But Uganda
declined to help the Kenyan
Germany, US and Britain, all
keen not to ruffle relations
with Moi, were reluctant to
give asylum to Raila.
Only Norway, which had cut
relations with Kenya, accepted
To leave Uganda for Norway,
Raila had to be disguised
Ahmed Sayyid Farah, a
Somali national who was the
UNHCR country representative
in Uganda, decided they were
not going to take chances.
Farah got Raila a kanzu with
a fez and a jacket similar to
those of Uganda Muslims to
wear. His name changed to
Haji Omar, going to Mecca on
A friend who had boarded
Sabena Airlines in Nairobi
could not recognise Raila
when he boarded in Kampala.
His sisters who waited for
him at the airport in Oslo
could not recognise him
Back home, Raila’s wife Ida
was still fighting.
She issued a press statement
detailing why Raila had to,
and stubbornly insisted that if
anything happened to her
husband, she would hold the
police responsible.
She said thugs had attacked
Raila’s car at their gate and a
day later, an unidentified
persons left a bucketful of
faeces on their backyard.
Police were calling their
house every day and leaving
death threats, she said.
"The latest telephone message
that police will shoot him if
they caught up with him is the
most terrifying. The police
have created a lot of fear in
our children with these
threats. The children freeze
every time the phone rings or
whenever there is a knock on
the door," Ida protested.
"Last week, our daughter
broke down in class. I am
afraid our children can’t take
it anymore. I appeal to the
police to stop it for the sake
of the children. In this
country, all children are
supposed to occupy a special
place in the hearts of the
leaders," Ida said.
She insisted that those
hunting Raila down were not
ordinary policemen.
"Never before have I heard
policemen leaving death
messages to people they
intend to arrest. May be the
tactics have changed. When
they say openly that he will
see fire or he will see what he
has never seen before or that
he will never see the sun
again, these messages mean
the same thing, that they will
kill him."
Ida complained that on
October 4 1991, a rowdy and
rude group of about 20
uniformed and plain clothed
policemen attempted to get to
their house by force. Earlier,
police had invaded East
African Spectre and harassed
employees, staged continuous
surveillance on the company
and at Raila’s home. At the
company, they left the
message that Raila should
report to Central Police
"It was ominous that when we
reported to the Central Police
Station, no officer at that
station knew about his
requirement to report," Ida
said in the lengthy statement.
"I want to state very clearly
and in no uncertain terms that
if something happens to Raila,
my family will hold police
wholly responsible."
A day later, Raila’s father,
Jaramogi weighed in with a
statement asking police to
leave his son alone.
"I appeal to the Commissioner
of Police to put a stop to this
nonsense. I appeal to the
head of the Special Branch,
whose professional duty is to
advise the Government on
political matters as they relate
to the security of society to
advise against the Gestapo
Apparently, Raila had not left
the country or even Nairobi,
when this statement was
But it created the impression
that he was out.
It was not the first time Ida
was showing this act of
defiance in what was
increasingly becoming a
family’s battle with the State.
A few years earlier, Ida had
been sacked from her
teaching job "in public
interest." That came after she
took the State to court in 1988
to demand Raila’s release.
A letter of retirement was
delivered to her at Kenya High
School on September 12,
1988, telling her to handover
all school property and leave
within six hours.
Nobody, not even the Kenya
National Union of Teachers
protested. Only the late
Bishop Alexander arap Muge
did. When international
pressure mounted, the
Teachers Service Commission
(TSC) changed tact.
Mr J Kang’ali wrote to Ida
about a week later: "The TSC
has carefully reviewed its
decision on this matter and
having taken into account
your previous record of
service as a teacher, it has
been decided that you be
reinstated back to the
teaching service, on
humanitarian grounds."
TSC declined to take
responsibility for the
inconveniences to Ida.
In early 1991, an uncowed Ida
fired a lengthy letter to
Attorney General Mathew
Muli, demanding to know why
Raila was being persecuted.
"Why is it that up to now,
Raila has not been told
specifically what it is that he
did to warrant detention
without trial? Would you not
agree that general reference to
his involvement or
association with persons is
not specific at all? How can
he change if his offences are
not specified?" she asked.
In the end, Norway gave Raila
an asylum, a job and a
passport that allowed him to
travel to all countries except
He had lived to fight another
day and launch an attack on
the Nyayo Government from
abroad. He returned later to
take the Lang’ata seat in

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