The History of Kingpins in the Kenyan Tribal politics – Luo

If there exists a community which has had some sort of succesful kingpinship system ,then it’s the Luo .They have always rallied behind a single kingpin , whether in or out of government .However , it has not always been Rossy for the kingpins ,as forces have tried to robe them this delicate position.

At the center of the Luo kingpinship is the Odinga family , a family that had had a firm grip on the political affairs of the Luo. And to a good extent , they deserve the position as they have viciously fought for it at the eyes of perpetrators ,and just like the rest of the communities , the Luo began having their political kingpin at the dawn of independence.

At independence ,there war two men from Luoland who occupied senior positions ,Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya . while Odinga was Kenyatta’s number 2 , Mboya was a confidant of the president and when the first cabinet was formed , he was given the powerful constitutional docket and were therefore trusted as the community’s spokespersons . By the virtue of being older and senior in government , Odinga became the Kingpin .Odinga was from the Sakwa clan of Bondo while Mboya was from the Kaksingri of the Rusinga Island . Just a few months into independence , it was apparent that Mboya and Odinga couldn’t see eye to eye .Odinga was a west leaning capitalist ,while Odinga was an east leaning communist , and Mboya had the virtue to be in the same side with the president. Mboya and Kenyatta even frustrated Odinga out of Kanu .Mboya was also interested in the Luo kingpinship , leading to a hot cold relationship between the Luo of South Nyanza and central Nyanza .

After resigning from government ,Odinga was further pushed into the wall by Mboya who ensured a law was introduced to force Odinga to take up a by election. Most Luo MPs followed Odinga into KPU leaving Mboya and isolated Luo figure in government.

When Mboya was gunned down in 1969 , it was apparent that the government he was serving killed him , this resented the Luos and increased their loyalty to Odinga whom they believed to be the only one who had their interests at heart . The Luo became defiant to the government under Odinga ,and this forced Kenyatta to push Odinga out of parliament by putting him under house arrest in 1970. Subsequently he lost his Bondo seat and a new figure ,Odongo Omamo was introduced . Omamo was to take the place of Odinga among the Luo community , but to no avail as the Luos were ready to follow Odinga even outside parliament.When Kenyatta died and Moi took over , probably as a sign of a new leaf , Moi tried to re introduce Odinga to the government , but the later blundered by terming the founding father as a land grabber , he was returned to the cold and Moi entrusted Omamo to keep Odinga out of the Luo politics. After the 1982 August coup , it was evident that Odinga had a hand in it , this news made him to be further confined just in his Bondo home ,and Moi introduced other figures to completely erase the Odinga popularity in Nyanza .It is noteworthy to state that this individuals were rewarded heavily , but not even them could erase the Odinga popularity from the Luo Nyanza. They were Okiki Amayo who became the strongest Kanu Chairman ever in history , the muchOyugi Ohango who was the PS of Internal Security , who had cabinet ministers kneel to address him , Peter Oloo Aringo ,who was a string Cabinet minister in the Moi regime ,Robert Ouko ,an intellect at all cost , and Odongo Omamo , an Odinga arch rival in Bondo who Moi had inherited from Kenyatta.

This group was to fully stamp out Odingaism out of Nyanza and they were given all the state machineries to achieve this , but for more than ten years ,they were unable. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall , clamour for multipartism had started ,and Odinga saw this as his only opportunity to re ignite himself politically after three decades of cold , and together with other people who were dessented with the Moi regime , led the push for multipartism. It is also interesting that a lot of events took place within the Luo nation at this period , Robert Ouko ,a close ally of Moi was murdered ,and it seemed the government had an hand , this completely made Luo hate the regime of the day and cool their tail behind the now aging Jaramogi. Moi bowed to pressure and allowed multipartism , Jaramogi got back his Bondo seat from his local rival Odongo Omamo who for decades , could not match Odinga’s influence in Bondo alone. Jaramogi’s party Ford Kenya also won all seats in the Luo Nyanza .

When Jaramogi died in January 1994 , a vicious battle to succeed him began ,at the center of this battle was James Orengo , who was Odinga’s errand boy for many years ,Raila Odinga , Jaramogi’s son who had braved detention for eight years ,Anyang Nyong’o ,who led university dons to defy Moi , Achieng Oneko ,who had stood with Jaramogi throughout the years and Odongo Omamo ,who had failed to erase Jaramogi’s influence in Luo Nyanza for three decades .

The battle began in control of Ford Kenya , and Raila lost to Orengo in the Vice chairmanship elections , all other possible heirs rallied behind Orengo except Raila. After months of struggle to control Ford Kenya , the then Langata MP bolted out of it and formed his own party LDP. In 1997 , he used the party to vie for presidency ,though he lost ,but the party swept across all seats in Luo Nyanza , making him rise to become the Luo Kingpin. To the surprise of many , Moi allies pledged loyalty to Raila and this made them at least , re kindle their dying political candles .Of interest were Odongo Omamo and Oloo Aringo who had to sing the Raila’s song to escape political graveyard. Those who went against this wave , lost miserably , this included Anyang Nyong’o and Achieng Oneko .The only one who survived the tsunami was the then Ugenya MP ,James Orengo.

In the 2002 elections , Raila threw his weight behind Kibaki in Narck, and just like before , Narck swept all parliamentary seats in Luo Nyanza , and even the earlier rebels like Anyang Nyong’o were back and were fully behind Raila. Probably out of the 1997 win ,Orengo was confident and went against the tsunami again , but list terribly.

In 2005 when Raila left Narck , and so did Luo Nyanza .In fact the 2005 NO Team , spearheaded by Raila almost got perfect win out of the Luo Nyanza .In 2007 ,the son of Jaramogi under ODM tried to access the house in the hills once more , with the entire Luo Nyanza with him , Luo was orange, and when the election results were disputed , the mass action that followed in support of Raila was mainly in Luo Nyanza . Raphael Tuju who dared the wave in the 2007 lost his seat despite his great track record.

Fast forward to 2010 , the clamour for new constitution , and this time round ,Raila was in the Yes Team , and he carried the entire Lake with him , and the team won. In 2013 , the Luo Kingpin made a stab at the presidency again ,lost and contested the result at the Supreme Court ,and lost again , however ,the ODM party swept across the Luo region , and those who went through other parties had to affiliate themselves to Raila for survival.

In 2016 , a push to remove the electral body began , led by Raila himself and the Luo Nyanza was behind him to the last person . In 2017 when the elections approached , Raila made another attempt at the top seat , but lost , contested the results at the Supreme Court ,won but pulled out of the repeat elections citing planned rigging , and when the police forcefully brought the ballot materials ,the Luo Nyanza was again in solidarity with Raila , boycotting the entire process

The Luo people have always been loyal to their Kingpin ,and now that he (Raila) is aging , it will be interesting to see who takes over the mantle.


By Lincoln Oyugi

Just as Isaac Newton died a virgin, I'll die a writer!

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