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RAILA ODINGA: IN THE USA FOR GOOD OR ILL?

Raila Oding - underwent surgery in June 2010 to remove water on the brain

Raila Odinga – underwent surgery in June 2010 to remove water on the brain

It may seem an odd speculation to make on a day when The Star newspaper has published a photograph purporting to be Raila Odinga giving a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, but is Kenya’s former Prime Minister in the USA to study and make the occasional speech, or is he there for medical reasons? In short: is Raila Odinga ill?

RAILA OUT OF POLITICS FOR A MONTH?

It was in mid-March that Raila Odinga headed for the USA to attend a one-month ‘political programme’ for former leaders at Boston University. He publicly stated at the time that the study programme was conditional on the ‘leaders’ not getting involved in politics for the duration of the course.

That in itself seemed strange: that Odinga would pull out of politics for a month just a couple of weeks after his ODM party had all but imploded when internal elections were cancelled following violence at a delegates meeting in Kasarani.

On April 19 it was announced that Mr Odinga was to extend his US tour by a month during which time he would deliver a speech at Columbia University in New York and at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and lay a wreath the Martin Luther King Memorial, in addition to Tuesday’s lecture at the Woodrow Wilson School.

RAILA OUT OF THE FRAME?

Photographs of Raila Odinga have appeared in The Star. One grainy photograph was off Odinga eating at a KFC. Another similarly grainy image appeared of Raila sitting on the hospital bed of President Obama’s aunt Zeituni Onyango in Boston. Similarly, the photograph of Odinga laying a wreath at Martin Luther King’s memorial was fairly obviously not taken by a professional photographer.

The photograph of Mr Odinga on page six of today’s Star is the work of a professional (the source given being ‘Courtesy’) but is off Raila alone on a platform.

Last year Raila Odinga also delivered a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson School where he was pictured next to other guests and a video of the lecture was released for public consumption. To date there has been no video release for this year’s lecture, or indeed of any of his other speaking engagements.

The Kenya Forum notes that Odinga’s speech on Tuesday has not been reported in the Daily Nation or Standard. As with other aspects of the US tour The Star seems to have almost exclusive access to the reporting of Raila Odinga’s activities.

An interview, or rather a Question & Answer session with Raila Odinga has been published in The Princetonian but again there is no photograph and no evidence that he was interviewed face-to-face.

IS ANYBODY THERE?

To a naturally skeptical journalist (and all journalists should by nature be skeptics), Raila Odinga’s US tour seems be one unaccompanied by independent witnesses, journalists or audiences (unless selected).

It is not surprising that Raila Odinga, fast approaching 70 years of age, has a medical history. In June 2010 he was admitted to Nairobi Hospital suffering from ‘fatigue’ and underwent an operation on his head to remove water from his brain. In April 2008 it was also rumoured that he had been flown to Germany for treatment.

IS THERE A RIGHT TO KNOW?

Do we need to know whether Raila Odinga is having a medical in the USA or indeed undergoing treatment? That is a fair point and one which the Kenya Forum has pondered on for several days.

Our reasons for publishing this admittedly speculative piece is that we have become increasingly convinced that some in the press in Kenya, whom we know are also privately discussing this issue, have not investigated further and what is worse, may already know the truth (at least in part) and are helping to cover it up.

The Kenya Forum wishes Raila Odinga the very best of health but we believe the health of Kenya’s free press is also important and when it comes to a major political figure like Raila Odinga, the public do have a right to know.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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