Kenya elections: Raila Odinga defeated for the fifth time

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  • It seems Raila Odinga is always the proverbial bridesmaid, but never the bride.
  • Odinga lost Kenya's latest presidential race - his fifth attempt.
  • His older brother, however, won a senate seat by a landslide.

There's a saying that "no one remembers number two". But it doesn't apply to Raila Odinga, a five-time so-called bridesmaid in Kenya's presidential elections.

In fact, he will be remembered for generations to come.

For Joseph Mwaka, a Kenyan national resident in Zimbabwe, Odinga's election loss "is a family curse". He said history made him write off Odinga's chances of ever becoming president.

Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga, a prominent figure in Kenya's struggle for independence, was Raila's father. He became Kenya's first vice-president and thereafter, opposition leader. In Kenya's history, he was credited for the phrase "not yet uhuru" (not yet free), which is also the title of his autobiography, which was published in 1967.

That was where the curse started, according to Mwaka.

He said:

The only consolation in that family right now is Oburu Odinga. He had a landslide victory in the Siaya Senate race.

Oburu, 79, is Raila's older brother who bagged 285 595 votes to defeat five other candidates who were vying for the seat.

But the family did not manage to bring the big one home.

After the shock defeat, Raila's usually active Twitter account, which has about 3.8 million followers, was quiet.

There is speculation that he will challenge the outcome after four election commissioners disowned the result.

But the four commissioners were put in office by Odinga's biggest political supporter, outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta, and therefore many see it as factional politics at play.

William Ruto, the president-elect, thanked Kenyans "for the biggest honour of my life".

"I am ready to serve you," he said.

Five times unlucky

Odinga has had five spirited presidential campaigns and all have ended in defeat.

As a member of parliament and formidable opposition politician in 1997, he went for the presidency and lost as a distant third after Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi won with 2.45 million votes, followed by Mwai Kibaki of the Democratic Party, who received 1.9 million votes.

With 665 000 votes, Odinga had announced his arrival in the race.

In 2002, he didn't run, but threw his support behind Kibaki, who won big with 3.65 million votes - a sound hiding for his rival at the time, Uhuru Kenyatta, who bagged 1.84 million votes. For that, Odinga was credited with a post as a cabinet minister.

In 2007, he joined the race for the presidency again.

Early indications suggested he was on his way to a comfortable victory but, for some reason, the final result declared his former ally, Kibaki, the winner with 4.58 million votes against his 4.35 million.

It was a close call, followed by post-election violence that claimed the lives of 1 000 people and left more than 500 000 displaced after Odinga rejected the results.

So far, reports in Kenya are that there are pockets of violence after last week's election results announcement.

In 2013, he found himself back in familiar territory against Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of his father's political rival after independence in 1963.

Uhuru Kenyatta won the election with 6.17 million votes, against Odinga's 5.34 million.

The two sons of Kenya's independence stalwarts would fight it out for the second time in 2017. Uhuru got 54% of the votes, and Odinga came second with 45%.

It seemed promising for Odinga this time around.

With Kenyatta on his side and a legacy of struggle, it seemed written in the stars.

But it was announced that Ruto had garnered 50.5% of the vote.

Like his favourite English Premier League team, Arsenal, Odinga's been near yet so far from winning the big one.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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