I saw Raila Junior for the first time when he was nine years

Raila says Ida went through great humiliation while he was imprisoned, and when he was released, his son was nine years old

In Summary

• Raila Odinga has for the first time opened up about the pain his wife Ida went through while he was in detention.

• The former prime minister and eight others were detained on suspicion they played a role in the 1982 coup.

ODM leader Raila Odinga confers with his wife Ida Odinga in a past function in Mombasa.
RAILA AND IDA: ODM leader Raila Odinga confers with his wife Ida Odinga in a past function in Mombasa.
Image: FILE

Opposition chief Raila Odinga has for the first time opened up about the pain and struggle his wife Ida endured to raise their family while he was in detention for nine years.

The former Prime Minister and eight others were detained on suspicion they played a role in the 1982 attempted coup against President Daniel Moi's regime.

Recounting his harrowing prison experience, Raila revealed his youngest son, Raila Odinga Jnr, only got to know his father when he was nine years old. That's when Raila left prison.

“He (Jnr) was being told that he had a father who was away. I came out and stayed with him for only six months before I went back home [prison]. I came back again after one year and stayed for a year and then went back again,” Raila said.

In a candid narration during Ida's 70th birthday party, Raila said his wife endured great suffering and humiliation while trying to steady the family during his nine-year-long stay behind bars.

“All these time, it was Ida who was taking care of Fidel, Rosemary, Winnie and Junior. For all that time she was a single mother,” the ODM leader said on Saturday.

Prominent personalities in attendance were Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother Muhoho was also present. The President did not attend the event but sent a congratulatory message.

In an emotional tribute to the family matriarch, Raila said his children were chased out of school while Ida was also fired from Kenya High school where she was teaching.

“The kids and their mother did not know where to go. This lady you see here (Ida) has gone through a lot for my sake,” Raila said in paying homage to her.

Speaking fondly of Ida, Raila told dozens of women at his Karen home that his wife played a crucial role in his health when he came face to face with death while in detention at Manyani Prison in Taita Taveta in 1985.

It was just a year after his mother had died on November 5, 1984. He missed his mother's burial and was officially informed about her death two months later.

According to Raila's autobiography, Flame of Freedom, the African Union Infrastructure envoy learnt of his mother's death in a dream.

"One night, my mother's image came strongly to my mind. The next day, I did not feel like eating at all, I just stayed in my room and told the warders I had had a bad dream," he began.

He went on, "I had seen my mother talking to me as if she was in pain. She seemed to be bidding me farewell and telling me to be strong. With concern, I said to the warders that something must have happened to my mother.”

Raila, got confirmation two days later, when he received a toilet paper note from fellow detainee George Anyona, stating he was sorry for the loss of his mother.

However, a telegram bearing the news, from his brother Oburu Odinga, was handed to him two months after the death.

Speaking of Ida's role in his life, Raila said his wife has paid a huge price in his political struggles.

According to Raila, Ida got into a lot of trouble with state functionaries when it was discovered that she had sent him a letter with drug prescriptions from a doctor while he was ailing at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

He had been moved from Manyani Prison after a seven-day hunger strike that almost cost him his life. He was protesting the violations of his human rights.

“They did a search and found a letter which I had hidden under my blanket. They looked at the handwriting and the stamp and came for Ida. They took her somewhere and wanted to know how she was able to smuggle the letter to me,” Raila said.

In his autobiography, Raila narrates that his medical condition, while he was in Manyani, worsened by a misdiagnosis by a government doctor, a Dr Mwongera.

He had given him drugs to lower his blood pressure when he had been on hunger strike as he protested his transfer to Manyani from Shimo la Tewa Prison.

“He (the doctor) thought that I was suffering from high blood pressure which I was not suffering from. He went and prescribed for me high blood pressure drugs, which caused me a lot of problems and I could not sleep,” Raila recalled.

He felt that he was receiving extra punishment, contrary to the Detention Act that provides for isolation from the public while enjoying all other rights.

Raila says in his book a doctor Mwita - who was sent from Nairobi to examine him - saved him after he administered some drugs that helped him recover.

Authorities then transferred him from Manyani to Kamiti Prison where after two months he started to recover.

While at Kamiti, Raila said, he used his connections to find a communications channel to reach out to his wife about his medical condition.

Outside his political allies, Ida is seen as Raila's pillar who stood by him during the most trying moments of their marriage and his political career

“I got a warder who could smuggle letters out. I used to write on toilet papers before the warder could smuggle them to Ida who got a doctor who did me a prescription for drugs which worked,” Raila said.

After about six months at Kamiti, Raila was transferred to Naivasha Prison before he was released alongside eight other detainees on February 5, 1988.

Kiraitu Murungi, now Meru governor, served as Raila's lawyer. He once said he had to intervene so Raila would end his hunger strike that took a toll on his body.

Raila had become sick and appeared weak, Kiraitu said, yet he remained adamant against breaking his hunger strike.

Kiraitu said his single warning to Raila persuaded him to enjoy a sumptuous meal of rice and fried eggs that evening. He spoke during the launch of Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o's anthology of short stories.

Kiraitu had warned Raila against playing into Moi's hands. "If you continue doing this (hunger strike), you are soon going to die, my friend," Kiraitu told him at Manyani Prison.

“Don’t you think Nyayo (Moi’s nickname) will be very happy to see you dead?” 



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