In Kenya’s Kisumu, prayers for ‘Baba’ Odinga’s presidency

In Odinga’s hometown people vent their anger, but still hopeful their leader will be president – the first from their tribe.

Kenyan riot policemen confront demonstrators supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga, after Odinga claimed "massive" fraud in this week''s elections, in Kisumu
Kisumu voters backed Odinga overwhelmingly in all four presidential bids [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Kisumu, Kenya – “Those who like me, like me too much and those who hate me, hate me with passion.”

Those are the words of Raila Odinga – the man who ran for Kenya’s top job four times, three times with no luck.

In Kisumu, they like him unconditionally. It is hard to find someone who has not voted for him here.

It is said that an endorsement from the man they affectionately call “Baba” (father) can get you elected for political office in this city on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Go against “Baba” and you might find yourself banished from the political arena in this part of the country.

Kijana Wamalwa, a former vice president of Kenya, described Odinga supporters as suffering from “Railamania” and those against him as hit by “Railaphobia”.

Kisumu voters and Nyanza region as a whole backed Odinga overwhelmingly in his presidential bids.

In 1997, 2007 and 2013, they patiently cast their votes and held their breaths as counting began.

Every time, the wait ended in disappointment. Every time, like Odinga claimed, they blamed vote rigging for the disappointment.

And this morning when provincial results showed President Uhuru Kenyatta – the man who defeated Odinga in the last election – leading, their heart sank. For a minute, they thought history was repeating itself.

And then “Baba” stepped forward. He rejected the count and said the country’s electronic voting system was hacked.

‘No Raila, no peace’

“Baba” called for calm but, in some parts of this city, it was too late. They took to the streets in anger burning tyres while shouting: “No Raila, no peace.” Police responded with tear gas.

Many here feel, at 72 this is Odinga’s last chance. The engineer-turned-politician has promised to serve only one term in office if he wins this election.

They want to see the former prime minister go a step further than his father, the country’s first vice president and for decades an opposition leader, and lead the East African country of 48 million people.

Odinga and Kenyatta’s fathers were political opponents for many years. Odinga’s supporters feel beating Kenyatta to the presidency is a victory long overdue.

Tonight, as residents of the city go to bed for the second night since they cast their ballots, plenty of prayers will be said in the hope that the provisional results are untrue and that “Baba” will be named Kenya’s fifth president and be the first from his tribe to do so.

Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter @Hamza_Africa

Source: Al Jazeera