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Feature Kenya


Hyped as Kenya’s most flamboyant politician, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga enjoys a huge following at the grassroots. His personality both excites and elicits cultish personification. But 2011 hasn’t started very well for him. From Nairobi, Wanjohi Kabukuru, reports why.


Is Raila Odinga losing friends fast?


R


AILA ODINGA’S GRASSROOTS popularity did not come by mere chance, and neither was it inherited from his father’s long dalliance with Kenyan politics.


(Odinga is the son of the first vice-presi- dent of Kenya, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.) His current status was not ac- corded to him on a silver platter; he has earned it by sheer political determination. In Kenya’s politics Odinga leads the


pack when it comes to mobilisation. But enter 2011, and it appears his undoing is increasingly being linked to his failure to


26 | March 2011 New African


get to the top seat and retain loyalty. Ever since he became Kenya’s prime


minister, Odinga has been losing friends faster than he has made them. His par- ty, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which enjoyed a massive follow- ing across the country, is on the brink of collapse. A rebellion openly orchestrated by one of Odinga’s staunchest allies in the 2007 presidential elections and his party deputy leader, William Ruto, began to form in 2009 when Odinga called for the resettlement of members of the Kalenjin community who had encroached into Ken-


ya’s largest water tower, the Mau Forest. To Odinga’s credit his no-nonsense


approach to evict the Kalenjin from the forest earned him international accolades and rare praise from the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). But the praises of UNEP and the myriad diplomats based in Nairobi could not salvage his political support base among the Kalenjins. Ruto, who was by then the minister of agriculture, stood up for his community, earning the flak of en- vironmentalists and defying his party boss. Matters took a turn for the worse when


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