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Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga has been a Member of Parliament for the Langata constituency in Kenya since 1992. He is a first cousin of Barack Obama, whose late Muslim father was Odinga’s maternal uncle. Today Odinga heads the same Luo tribe to which the elder Obama belonged.

In 1982 Odinga collaborated in a failed coup attempt against Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, an act for which he was subsequently detained without trial for six years. Odinga was released in February 1988 but was rearrested seven months later for his involvement with the Kenya Revolutionary Movement (KRM), an underground organization calling for multi-party democracy in Kenya, which was then a one-party state. He was released in June 1989, was re-incarcerated the following month, and finally was released again on June 21, 1991. Four months thereafter he fled to Norway.

In 1992 Odinga returned to Kenya and was elected to his parliamentary post. He served as Minister of Energy from 2001 to 2002, and as Minister of Roads, Public Works and Housing from 2003 to 2005.

In 2007 Odinga challenged incumbent Mwai Kibaki for the office of President. The December 27 election was fraught with irregularities on both sides, and the Kenyan election commission declared Kibaki the winner by a margin of some 230,000 votes. Raila challenged the results, alleging fraud by the election commission. Two months of violent protests ensued across the country, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 people and the displacement of another 600,000.

In February 2008 former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered a deal between Odinga and Kibaki; the pair signed a power-sharing agreement calling for the creation of the post of Prime Minister, into which Odinga was sworn on April 17, 2008.

Odinga seeks to establish Islamic Law throughout Kenya, whose current population is majority-Christian.

During a New Hampshire campaign stop in the spring of 2008, Obama interrupted his schedule to speak by phone with Odinga. “He has called me to talk about the destabilizing constitutional crisis in this country,” Odinga said. Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed that this conversation did indeed take place.

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