Rosemary Odinga: “How My Youngest Daughter Saved My Life And My Role In The Handshake”

    On January 20, 2017, Rosemary Odinga, Raila Odinga’s eldest daughter, declared her entry into politics. But barely a month later, Rosemary suffered a sudden and debilitating illness that edged her out of politics and saw her held up in South Africa for months on end as she underwent treatment.

    Three years after the life-threatening illness that took her sight for two years, Rosemary has revealed that her recovery has been successful and she is now doing much better.   

    Her father described her progress as a miracle.

    During a Sunday night interview on K24’s Punchline, Rosemary largely credited her recovery to her family and friends who supported her after the death of her brother, Fidel.

    “I have to commend my family because we had lost my brother not too long before. Everybody was very supportive. My younger brother and sister took in the kids. My friends, cousins, uncles and aunts were also very supportive. Everyone came together. I am very grateful for that.”

    Rosemary also said her mother would often read her messages sent by other people, which was comforting as it made her realize she was not battling the illness alone.Her two daughters, in particular, have been a propelling force in her life.

    Her recovery, albeit encouraging, Rosemary noted that she still has a long way to go.Until now, the effects of the illness continue to prevent her from engaging in certain activities she previously enjoyed, such as reading.

    Her illness struck during a working holiday. At the time, she was attending a women’s leadership training outside Nairobi where she had been accompanied by her daughters.One night, while her daughters were out for dinner, she got a persistent headache. But it was not until the following morning that her condition deteriorated.

    “In the morning there was a knock on the door. When I opened the door, I collapsed on the lady who was coming to get me ready. She walked me back to the room and laid me on the bed.”

    Her youngest daughter quickly alerted staff at the front desk of the hotel where they were staying. An ambulance rushed her to a nearby clinic where a doctor advised her to drive to Nairobi to seek better treatment.But she was too weak to drive and after a phone conversation between the doctor and her mother, Ida, a decision was reached to use an air ambulance to fly her to a hospital in Nairobi.It was here that tests revealed the seriousness of her condition. She had an aneurysm and a tumour.

    She also praised her father and President Uhuru Kenyatta for reconciling.Patriotism, she said, is important to her and it is a virtue that was instilled in her at a young age. She said she is happy supporting Kenya and she does not need a political seat to do so.

    She disclosed her passionate plea to her father and to President Uhuru Kenyatta that ultimately led to the famous 2018 handshake.

    Rosemary was asked whether she was surprised when Odinga and Kenyatta made the famous handshake on the footsteps of Harambee House to which she responded in the negative.

    She explained that after her brother Fidel died in 2015, she had pleaded with Kenyatta and Odinga to work together in both private and public channels.

    “I remember when my late brother passed on, I asked the two men to come together. Not only in private but also in my speech at his funeral. When it finally happened, I was happy that they had listened to what I had told them three years ago,” the younger Odinga said.

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