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Thursday, May 6, 2021 – The ongoing friction between former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo ostensibly over the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is not new.

The friction has reignited memories of the 1990s where Raila and Orengo bitterly clashed leading to bloodshed.

The history of the bad blood between the two can be traced to the death of Raila’s father – founding Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. 

As at the time of Jaramogi’s death, Orengo, who was Ugenya MP, was considered the second most influential Luo politician after Raila’s father. 

Orengo had a wealth of experience despite his youthful age as he had been elected to Parliament in 1980 aged 29 and had acted as Jaramogi’s lawyer on complicated legal matters.

He also had the respect of the officials who had worked with Jaramogi, an advantage over Raila, who was seen as a greenhorn riding on his father’s influence. 

According to the head of former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa’s security team, Audi Ogad, Raila sought to deputise Kijana Wamalwa as Ford Kenya’s vice-chairman after the demise of his father.

However, Wamalwa supported Orengo’s bid to become the vice-chair- a decision that forced Raila to go for the top seat.

“Raila initially wanted to contest as Wamalwa’s first vice-chairman against Orengo but changed his mind and went for the top seat after learning Wamalwa was supporting the Ugenya MP.”

“ Things got worse when it emerged that both sides had their own list of delegates,” Ogada stated.

Raila’s decision to oppose both Orengo and Wamalwa led to a chaotic scene at Thika stadium in 1995 as both leaders declared themselves winners. 

Wamalwa became the recognised leader while Raila resigned to form the National Development Party (NDP).

He was able to craft his own political identity and became the de facto leader of Luo Nyanza politics. 

In the 1997 general election, Orengo overcame the NDP wave and was elected Ugenya MP on a Ford Kenya ticket.

His election increased rivalry between him and Raila as well as between their supporters who clashed at various functions.

In April 1999, police officers had to intervene at a fundraiser rally after Orengo’s supporters attempted to block Odinga from holding a fundraiser in Ugunga. 

In 2002, however, the tide turned as Raila teamed up with Wamalwa and supported former President Mwai Kibaki’s bid to succeed Moi. 

The alliance prompted Orengo to vie for the Presidency seat on a Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket.

“I wanted real leadership change when Moi’s term in office came to an end, and not just another game of musical chairs,” Orengo said.

The senator finished fourth in the race and subsequently lost his parliamentary seat.


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