KenyagistHow Raila Learnt About His Mother's Death

How Raila Learnt About His Mother’s Death


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Detention in Shimo la Tewa Prison, meant that communication between the prisoners and warders was forbidden.

However, with the help of sympathetic warders, Raila Odinga and George Anyona, both detainees at the prison, had managed to establish a channel of communication.

The two would write to each other on toilet paper, then use the notes received for their toilet needs, later flushing them away.

An old photo of Raila’s mother Mary Juma

It was in this mode of communication that on November 5, 1984, Raila got to find out about his mother’s death – the most unusual way.

According to Raila’s biography, Flames of Freedom, the AU Envoy learnt of his mother’s demise in a dream.

“One night, my mother’s image came strongly to my mind. The next day, I did not feel like eating at all, I just stayed in my room and told the warders I had had a bad dream,” he began.

“I had seen my mother talking to me as if she was in pain. She seemed to be bidding me farewell and telling me to be strong. With concern, I said to the warders that something must have happened to my mother,” the former Prime Minister disclosed.

What Raila did not know, was that his mother’s death had been announced in the newspapers that morning.

The warders, however, kept silent and became suspicious of one another thinking that one of them may have told him the news, which was against the prison’s rules.

Raila, got confirmation of the tragic occurrence, two days later, when he received a note from Anyona, stating he was sorry for the loss of his mother.

However, a telegram bearing the news, from his brother Oburu Odinga, was issued to him two months after their mother’s demise.

The note was reportedly brought in by the officer in charge of the Prison, the deputy commissioner of prisons, Ngali Valai, duty officer Kangele and two other warders.

“They told me that there was bad news in the telegram but that I should “take it like a man.” he wrote.

Raila explained that “They came together because they wanted to see my reaction, if it seemed that I had known of my mother’s death already, it would mean there were leaks in the system.”

“Knowing this, and what it might mean for the warders assisting George and me to communicate, I received the news with feigned shock, then went and shut myself in my cell,” narrated Odinga.

After the inhumane incident, Raila was not allowed to attend the funeral and was never informed of it until much later.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, his wife Mary Juma and his family.


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