The Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga is currently attending the Democratic National convention in Philadelphia. My imagination is that he is a guest of the DNC. However, granted the leaked Emails that have shown the DNC favored one candidate over the other, I would expect Hon. Raila to issue a statement condemning the DNC for making a mockery of democracy. This is not about Hillary Clinton. This is not about Donald Trump. This is not about Bernie Sanders. This is about the electoral process.
The former prime minister has on different occasions cried foul about a ‘rigged Kenyan electoral system,’ yet when it comes to standing up for what is right and just relative to the leaked DNC emails, he has taken a tranquilizing drug of silence. But his father, Jaramogi Odinga was not the one to keep quiet in the face of an injustice, no matter where this injustice was happening in the world. After all, in the words of Dr. King, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
History reminds us that when Jaramogi visited America in the early 1960’s, the State Department took him on a visit to different cities in America. What the State Department did not want Jaramogi to see was the despicable state of segregation in America. In the last stop, Jaramogi was housed at one of Atlanta’s two non-segregated hotels.
When activists of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) heard about Jaramogi’s visit, they decided to visit his hotel and provide him with information that the State Department did not volunteer to him. At the hotel, the students shared stories and songs of the human-rights movement to acquaint Jaramogi with how America treated the African-American population.
Historians note that Jaramogi, after hearing these cries and lamentations, paused for a minute and then told the students: “Uhuru,” the Swahili word for “freedom.”
After visiting with Jaramogi, the SNCC delegation went to the Toddle House restaurant near the hotel. They sat in to protest the restaurant’s “whites only” policy. 17 students were arrested. Jaramogi did not take the arrest of the student lightly and is quoted to have described the racial situation in America as ‘very pitiful.’ Soon the Toddle House restaurant chose to desegregate and the students were released.
After the interaction with Jaramogi and his inspiration to the students, beseeching them to accept nothing short of “Uhuru,” Matthew Jones, a SNCC worker would later write the song: “Oginga Odinga of Kenya,” telling this story.
The song “Oginga Odinga of Kenya” became one of Malcolm X’s favorite songs. If you go back in history and listen to the intro to many Malcom’s speeches, the song that plays to welcome him to the podium is “Odinga Odinga of Kenya.”
Let me be clear.
I am a firm believer that in every election, voters should strive to elect men and women of integrity. In a democracy however, this may not always hold and when this happens, the will of the people should be respected.
Just as Jaramogi stood up for the rights of the segregated in the 60’s, his son, Raila, in 2016 should show that he means what he says about a fair electoral process by castigating those who take people power for granted.