At 3 am on Sunday, 1 August 1982, a group of soldiers from the Kenya Air Force led by Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka attempted to overthrow the government.
The then president was Daniel Arap Moi. After the failed attempt to overthrow him, President Moi reorganized Kenya’s security architecture.
Staffing it with his loyalists. And then he ensured a law was passed in parliament that gave him emergency powers. Placing the provincial administration under the president’s office.
Odinga was arrested and charged with treason after being accused of being among the masterminds of the 1982 coup.
He was released six years later in February 1988 but detained again in August of the same year to be released in June 1989.
Detention Without Trial
In an era of unrelenting human rights abuse by the Kenyan government, Odinga was placed under house arrest.
For seven months after, the evidence seemed to implicate him along with his late father, Oginga Odinga.
Accused of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against President Daniel Arap Moi in 1982.
Death of Civilians and Soldiers
Hundreds of Kenyan civilians and thousands of rebel soldiers died in the coup. Several foreigners also died. Odinga was charged with treason and detained without trial for six years.
A biography was released 14 years later, in July 2006, with Odinga’s approval. It indicated that Odinga was far more involved in the attempted coup than he had previously admitted.
After its publication, some Members of Parliament in Kenya called for Odinga to be arrested and charged.
Statute of Limitations
But the statute of limitations had already passed, and the information in the biography did not amount to an open confession on his part.
Among some of his most painful experiences was when his mother died in 1984, but the prison wardens took two months to inform him of her death.
He was released on 6 February 1988, only to be rearrested in September 1988 for his pro-democracy and human rights agitation.
At a time when the country continued to descend deep into the throes of poor governance. And the despotism of single-party rule.
Multi-party democracy Kenya was then, by law, a one-party state. His encounters with the authoritarian government generated an aura of intrigue about him.
And it was probably due to this that his political followers christened him “Agwambo,” Luo for “The Mystery” or “Unpredictable” or “Jakom,” meaning chairman.
1989 Release and Incarceration in 1990
Odinga was released on 12 June 1989, only to be incarcerated again on 5 July 1990, together with Kenneth Matiba.
And former Nairobi mayor Charles Rubia, both multiparty system and human rights crusaders. Odinga was finally released on 21 June 1991.
And in October, he fled the country to Norway amid indications that the increasingly corrupt Kenyan government was attempting to assassinate him without success.
At the time of Odinga’s departure to Norway, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), a movement formed to agitate for the return of multi-party democracy to Kenya, was newly formed.
In February 1992, Odinga returned to join FORD, then led by his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
He was elected Vice Chairman of the General Purposes Committee of the party. In the months running up to the 1992 General Election, FORD split into Ford Kenya.
Led by Odinga’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and FORD-Asili is led by Kenneth Matiba. Odinga became Ford-Kenya’s Deputy Director of Elections.
Odinga won the Langata Constituency parliamentary seat, previously held by Philip Leakey of KANU. Odinga became the second father of multi-party democracy in Kenya after Kenneth Matiba.
When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga died in January 1994, and Michael Wamalwa Kijana succeeded him as FORD-Kenya chairman, Odinga challenged him for the party leadership.
Member of Parliament
The elections were marred by controversy, after which Odinga resigned from FORD-Kenya to join the National Development Party (NDP).
In his first bid for the presidency in the 1997 General Election, Odinga finished third after President Moi, the incumbent, and Democratic Party candidate Mwai Kibaki.
He, however, retained his position as the Langata MP.