Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga during an interview at her office in Kisumu.PIC BY COLLINS ODUOR
Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s younger sister, Ruth Odinga, recalls with nostalgia the family’s relationship with the Kenyattas.
It stretches back to their childhood days.
Ruth, now the Kisumu County deputy governor, speaks especially passionately about her relationship with Uhuru, whom she refers to as a close friend despite their different political ideologies.
“When they came to Kisumu with their father (Uhuru’s father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta) we used to play together. Uhuru is a good friend of mine, a very personal friend. It’s only our political paths that were different,” she says.
Politics may have split the two families somewhere along history’s paths, but it was politics that brought them together in the first place.
“I was born into a political family and politics is what we have grown up in. I met Uhuru through politics. If my father was not in politics, I would not have known Uhuru,” she says.
All was well until the relationship between the elder Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga went into a nosedive. The children were not spared.
According to Ruth, the entire family paid a heavy price when the elder Kenyatta placed Jaramogi under house arrest.
“When my father was under house arrest and I was then a pupil at Victoria Primary School in Kisumu, I used to be taken to Central Police Station for inspection, where I was forced to undress before being inspected, then I would be asked to dress again after which I would get clearance to go to school,” recounts Ruth.
The harassment did not end with the humiliating morning searches. According to Ruth, more searches would be conducted in the course of the day.
“At lunch time, I would be taken to Central Police Station again for screening and clearance,” she says.
As the relationship between the two families went from bad to worse, the Odingas’ fortunes dipped.
“When my father was in detention, I was hawking mangoes to get money for gubit and ice cream,” she recounts.
Later, when she joined Asumbi Girls in Homa Bay for O-level and A-level, she momentarily lost touch with the Kenyattas.
But after some years, Ruth and Uhuru’s paths crossed again.
“Our paths crossed again after I left Asumbi girls for Kenya High when I was accused of leading a strike. I was in Kenya High while the President was at St Mary’s. We were friends, I even know his college sweethearts,” she says.
Later, Uhuru left for the US for his undergraduate studies.
According to Ruth, different members of her family have different memories about the Kenyattas.
“There are those who suffered and those who don’t even know how people suffer. When people complain that there are too many Odinga children and grandchildren in politics I differ; I have charted my own (political) path.
“Our families know each because of politics but I have really suffered,” she said.