Be it a book or a newspaper report, in Kenya you sometimes have to read between the lines, to look at what is not there, what has been missed out, to have some idea as to where the real truth lies. Thus it is in the case of ‘Raila Odinga: The Flame of Freedom’, Odinga’s autobiography written ‘with Sarah Elderkin’, his long-term close friend and associate.
Raila Odinga’s recently published autobiography is over 950 pages long so there are inevitably bound to be errors which in themselves do not diminish the overall standing of the book. Political memoirs are also notoriously prone to being dull and self-serving. Any politician’s memoir that rises above this has at least achieved something and ‘The Flame of Freedom’ certainly does in part.
In short, ‘Flame of Freedom’ is well worth a read but, and it’s a big ‘BUT’, there are omissions and errors that the Kenya Forum find it almost impossible to believe are accidental and are rather an attempt to make the story fit the requirements of the writers.
Miguna Miguna Erased
For example, in his book ‘Peeling back the mask’, Miguna Miguna, Raila Odinga’s former aide, directed a major allegation of corruption centred on the then former prime minister’s office, an allegation he supported by reproducing a letter from none other than Sarah Elderkin (see Kenya Forum posting, ‘Kenya’s Watergate’, 12 September, 2012). In ‘Flame of Freedom’, Miguna Miguna is erased from Odinga’s and Elderkin’s history: he gets one mention and the issues raised in his book are not addressed.
Scandal? Don’t mention it.
In ‘Flame of Freedom’ allegations over the ‘maize scandal’ do not get a mention, nor too allegations over the ‘Triton Oil’ scandal’ (surely a chance to put the record straight?), and the enmity between Raila Odinga’s father Jaramogi Ogina Odinga and Tom Mboya is largely airbrushed from Kenya’s history. Oddly, the year 2005, for reasons the Kenya Forum does not understand, is also passed by.
The murder of Dr. Robert Ouko
Some of the most glaring omissions, errors and partial story-telling in Odinga’s autobiography however, relate to the murder of Dr Robert Ouko, Luo politician and Kenya’s Foreign Minister who was killed on 13 February 1990 (see Kenya Forum posting, ‘The murder of Dr Robert Ouko: Why it matters and what really happened’, 6 February, 2012), a subject that both Raila Odinga and Sarah Elderkin know well.
An entire chapter of ‘Flame of Freedom’ is dedicated to ‘The ‘Ouko Commission of Inquiry 1991-2’ and the following chapter to the ‘Kisumu molasses factory’ (on the latter subject Elderkin has also written extensively in the press) so it is a subject of special interest to the authors.
Sunguh’s Parliamentary Investigation – press delete
Given that, there is not one mention, not one, of the 2003-05 Parliamentary Select Committee investigation under Gor Sunguh, nor a single reference to Sunguh himself who was married to Raila Odinga’s niece. Why? Kenya Forum readers may like to look at our posting ‘Gor Sunguh owes far more than Sh3 million and an apology over Ouko murder’, 17 July, 2011.
Brenda Brimmer-Martens = Marianne Briner-Mattern
The allegations of the ‘star witness’ relating to the murder of Dr Robert Ouko and the ‘Kisumu Molasses Project’ are quoted and referred to at length but she is referred to mainly as ‘the head of the BAK group’, ‘she’ and the author of a ‘letter’. When ‘she’ is mentioned, on only two pages of the book her name is given as ‘Ms Brenda Brimmer-Martens’ for which read her real name, Marianne Briner-Mattern.
It is inconceivable, says the Kenya Forum, that Raila Odinga and Sarah Elderkin in particular do not know the name Marianne Briner-Mattern in the context of the Kisumu Molasses Project and the murder of Dr Robert Ouko. The former had to bat of allegations directed against him by Briner-Mattern and the latter has written extensively on the subject.
Marianne Briner-Mattern Exposed
So why the error? Why Brimmer-Martens in place of ‘Briner-Mattern’? Perhaps because her allegations have been proved to be nonsense, her ‘reputable company’ a fake, and she, to put it mildly, flaky.
Perhaps because, like her profession and the range of the allegations she has made over the years, her name is changeable. Kenya Forum readers might like to refer to the following postings and judge for themselves:
Marianne Briner-Mattern: destroyer of Raila Odinga’s presidential bid?
Marianne Briner-Mattern: Jeff Koinange’s ‘date rape’ accuser
Marianne Briner-Mattern: president Daniel Arap Moi’s mistress?
Kisumu Molasses theory just doesn’t stick
On the Kisumu Molasses project, all was well in Raila’s book over its purchase by his company ‘Spectre’, everything was done according to the book. That, of course, was not the view of the Ndung’u Land Report.
When it came to Marianne Briner-Mattern’s accusations as to the existence of a motive for Ouko’s murder, Odinga and Elderkin trotted out the same old story but with some of the inconvenient facts missing.
Ouko’s sister and Detective Superintendent John Troon changed their stories (but don’t tell anyone)
Take one example: Ouko’s sister Dorothy Randiak told the Gicheru Commission that she had heard of ‘commissions’ (i.e. bribes) being asked for to secure the deal over the rehabilitation of Kisumu Molasses project, with Briner-Mattern and her (out on bail) business partner Domenico Airaghi backing one bid and Nicholas Biwott, Saitoti and others backing another. Odinga and Elderkin duly kept to that bit of the story even though it has been known for many years that it cannot be true.
Dorothy Randiak did make that allegation to the Commission (although not in any of her three written statements) but she was forced to admit under cross examination, when shown documentary evidence, that there were no rival bids for the project and that both companies tendering for the Kisumu molasses project were introduced by Briner-Mattern and Airaghi, not Biwott or anyone else. The British Scotland Yard detective John Troon also had to accept this fact when cross-examined.
If the facts don’t fit…
In fact, Marianne Briner-Mattern, in a letter she said she sent to Dr Ouko just before his murder, accused him of betraying her and threatened Ouko (no one else) with exposure over the illegal employment of workers at the Kisumu plant during the election campaign of 1988.
How did Odinga and Elderkin handle that one? They just changed the name ‘Ouko’ to ‘Biwott’ (probably just a slip of the pen), as if for some reason the latter had been campaigning in Kisumu, not Ouko. There’s more of the same throughout the book, literary and historical slights of hand.
This is what Marianne Briner-Mattern’s letter she says she sent to Ouko (although there is no proof he ever received it) actually said, according to the version she handed to Troon of Scotland Yard:
‘we believe that the reason for your [Dr Ouko’s] non-involvement in our defence could be found when checking on the employment of the 50 workers, since we found out that they had been used also to “campaign” for you during [the 1988] election and that part of the money was also used to pay the Youthwingers. You remember that your cousin Ouko Reru had the signature in the Commercial Bank of Kenya account and that at the end of the originally agreed period had asked us for an additional amount which we gave’.
Kenya Forum readers may like to look at two postings to get a more accurate account of the Kisumu Molasses project and it relevance to the murder of Dr Robert Ouko:
‘The Star (Siasa) article, ‘Biwott defends record on molasses, Ouko death…’, 16 September, 2012;
‘Nicholas Biwott, Marianne Briner-Mattern, Raila Odinga, the murder of Dr Robert Ouko and the Kisumu Molasses Project’, 18 September, 2012.
For now the Kenya Forum says ‘Raila Odinga: The Flame of Freedom’ is worth a read… between the lines.