Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Luo, Odinga and Obama

Let me start off by saying THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST. I have my views, but not for this website. My comments are purely cultural as I lived in Kenya for 14 years and still involved in the work among the Pokot and Turkana people. Perhaps some readers, who are not familiar with Kenya and Obama's roots will find it interesting.

The second largest tribe in Kenya, behind the Kikuyu, are the Luo. Most Luo names begin with the letter “O.” One of our workers was a very fine Luo by the name of Ocheing. Whenever he would write me a letter the envelope was always addressed to Mr. Oluis.

In 1976, when we arrived in the country, Kenya had only had independence for 13 years. One of the main rivals to Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was a Luo by the name of Oginga Odinga. Whereas Kenyatta strived to maintain good relationships with the U.K. and market economy, Odinga sought to turn the country to African socialism and model it after the Tanzania government's concept of Ujamaa (family/village). In the last presidential elections, which was a nightmare, the same old adversaries were engaged. The Kikuyu, Mwai Kibaki, against Raila Odinga, the son of Oginga (seen in photo with Obama). Though Kibaki was declared president, many believed the election was rigged. Riots ensued and tribal clashes resulted in many deaths. The government is now operating under shared power between Kibaki and Odinga.