Born on 7 January 1945, Kenya’s political history cannot be complete without mentioning Raila Odinga.
Raila Odinga started his political journey in 1992 when he Joined Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) after coming back to the country from exile.
In the same year, he vied for the first time as a member of parliament for Langata and won.
Sadly, he fell out with the leadership of Ford Kenya and formed the National Democratic Party (NDP).
He is popularly known for leading the merger between KANU and Ford Kenya.
He served as the Minister of Energy from 2001 to 2002 and became Kenya’s second Prime Minister in 2008.
He has unsuccessfully vied for the presidency six times (in 1997, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022).
Despite his long stay in opposition and controversial political life, Raila Odinga has many achievements under his belt.
Let’s look at some of his main achievements.
Raila Odinga Main Achievements
1. He has been at the forefront of the struggle for democracy and upholding the rule of law in Kenya.
His struggle for democracy started in September 1988 when he was arrested for his pro-democracy and human rights agitation when Kanu was the only political party in the country.
He fled to Norway after his release on 21 June 1991 for fear of being assassinated.
His fight for democracy bore fruits when President Daniel Arap Moi allowed for the restoration of a multiparty government in December 1991.
2. Dualling of Langata Road
During his time as the member of parliament of Langata constituency (between 1992 and March 2013), he undertook major projects that endeared him to the electorate.
For example, he sponsored a motion in parliament that resulted in the dualling of the Langata Road in the 1997-98 financial year.
This project massively reduced the traffic gridlock on Langata road.
3. Dethroned the ‘’oppressive’’ Moi regime
He differed his presidential ambitions in 2002 to support Mwai Kibaki, which led to the removal of the oppressive Moi regime.
Kibaki’s win ushered in a new era of democracy and economic development in Kenya.
4. Undertook significant projects as the Roads minister
As the Roads minister during the Mwai Kibaki administration, he initiated and oversaw the paving of Mbagathi Way using concrete.
The concrete paving is a replica of the autobahns of Germany.
The road has never been repaired since construction and it’s a reference point for civil engineering students today.
He also initiated and oversaw the upgrade of houses in Kibera slums with funding from international agencies, such as UN-HABITAT.
He also launched and oversaw the implementation of the Kibra Highrise slum-upgrading programme with the help of the National Housing Corporation.
He established an ultra-modern health facility at Laini Saba in partnership with multiple health organizations, including Amref.
Through the help of these health organizations, he also established the Raila Education Centre to support education.
5. He executed major projects as the country’s Prime Minister (between 2007 and 2013)
The main projects initiated by Raila during the Kibaki tenure were the Standard Gauge Railway and the Nairobi Expressway, which were actualized by Uhuru Kenyatta.
He also designed the Kenya Vision 2030 (the country’s development programme from 2008 to 2030) during the coalition government with Mwai Kibaki.
The aim of the Vision 2030 is to create “a globally competitive and prosperous nation, with a high quality of life by transforming it into a newly industrialized, and middle-income country.’’
He bravely championed for the environment by ordering the eviction of illegal Mau Forest Dwellers.
The Mau Forest is an important water catchment area in Kenya.
6. The 2018 handshake
He accepted a political truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 that lowered the political temperature and allowed economic development to take the front seat.
The handshake enabled the speedy completion of the Nairobi Expressway and the transformation of Nairobi City through the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
Raila Odinga Challenges
Despite all the achievements in his political life, Raila has had a fair share of challenges.
While he managed to overcome most of them, some have denied him the opportunity to lead this country and threatened his political career and life.
Some of the challenges he has faced include:
I. Charged with treason
Raila Odinga was charged with treason for his alleged involvement in the 1982 coup. He was detained for 6 years.
II. 1988 arrest
After he was released from detention, he was rearrested for his involvement in multiparty campaigns.
He was released on 12 June 1989, but rearrested again in 1990.
When he was released in 1991, he fled to Norway for fear of being assassinated.
III. Lost the presidency 5 times
In 1995, he viewed for the presidency and lost.
He also lost the 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022 presidential elections.
IV. The 2005 referendum upset
While he successfully mobilized to oppose the 2005 constitutional amendment referendum, he and his party were expelled from the government by Kibaki.
Despite many challenges in his political life, Raila is around and influences Kenyan politics massively.
In fact, most politicians opposing Raila admit that it’s very hard to govern this country without his support.
The fact that he is still in opposition, he will face many challenges.
But what is for sure is that the current administration will struggle to deliver when he is vehemently opposing them.