Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Meet Fidel Odinga
Yes, his complete name is Fidel Castro Odinga. He is the eldest son of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and a first cousin to Barack Hussein Obama. The late Obama Sr. was the prime minister's maternal uncle. Although Obama Sr. was educated at Harvard and Odinga in East Germany, uncle and nephew were friends and political allies.
Today it is Barack Obama and Raila Odinga who have formed a transcontinental political alliance. In fact, Senator Obama, in an unprecedented breech of protocal, went to Kenya in 2006 to campaign on his cousin's behalf in that country's presidential election.
Raila lost the election when a secret pact was revealed with Kenya's Muslim Brotherhood to institute sharia law in all the country's courts in exchange for their support of his candidacy. This is all the more remarkable because it is Christianity (66%), not Islam (10%), which is the largest religion in Kenya, and English common law, not the Koran, which is the basis for its legal system. Or, perhaps, it is not so remarkable, after all, since both the Odingas and Obamas belong to the 10 percent.
Although not an observant Muslim, Odinga does represent Moammar Qaffafy's oil interests in southern Africa, which may better explain his willingness to tranform his non-Muslim country into a Muslim state as Idi Amin did in Uganda when he was the recipient of the colonel's largesse 30 years ago.
Odinga's connection to Barack Obama, however, has proved more useful in his political career than Qadaffy's billions. It was in the expectation of Obama's election as president, and to ingratiate himself to him, that Odinga's political rival offered him the premiership as a consolation prize.
When Prime Minister Odinga named his son "Fidel Castro," he broke with Kenyan tradition as he should have named him for the boy's grandfather Oginga Odinga (the Kenyan "Fidel Castro"), a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who led an unsuccessful coup to topple the government of Kenya on behalf of the Soviets.
It is not known whether Oginga Odinga's brother-in-law, Obama Sr., was involved in the coup, though given the tribal character of politics in Kenya it would be difficult to imagine that he wasn't at least aware of it or wouldn't have profited by it even if he didn't contribute to it. Indeed, that may have been the reason for Obama Sr.'s failed political career in Kenya.
It is certainly ironic that Obama Sr.'s star eclipsed because of his relationship to Oginga Odinga, whereas his son Raila's rose because of his connection to Obama Jr.
We wonder how things might have turned out if Obama Sr., the Harvard-trained economist, had followed his cousin's example and named his American-born son "John Maynard Keynes Obama."