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Why Jaramogi, Raila were chased out of a Kisumu church in 1940s

Curtis Otieno
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A file image of founding Vice President Jaramogi Oginga and his son and opposition leader Raila Odinga.[Source/ODM Party/ Facebook]

It is clear that opposition leader Raila Odinga, his elder brother Oburu Oginga and their other brother the late Ngire Omuodo Agola lack English names.

However, this was not due to lack of English names at the time of their birth in the 1940s, but because their father and founding Vice President Oginga Odinga wanted it so.

It's worth noting that Oginga himself switched his birth name from Obadiah Adonijah to the rhyming African title.

It happened that one day, while the three were still young, Oginga embarked on a journey from his home Bondo to Maseno in Kisumu to have the boys baptised.

However, Church Missionary Society reverend Simon Nyende refused to baptise Oburu as Ngong'a Molo Oburu, suggesting Christian names to the unmoved Jaramogi. 

“No, Ng’ong’a Molo was a great chief in the country, loved by his people and I have not heard of anything he did which was objectionable to Christians,” Jaramogi retorted in defiance, according to his book 'Not Yet Uhuru'.

His attempts to have Raila baptized as Rayila Amolo Odinga and their brother Ngire Omuodo Agola retain the name were also futile and was consequently sent away with his boys.

His wife and the mother of the three Mary Odhiambo Odinga who witnessed the entire scenario stalked out of the church, leaving Jaramogi with the tough job of carrying the boys all the way to Bondo alone.

However, Oginga would later pull his strings and contact his friends in high places, including writing to the archdeacon in Nairobi and raising the matter with the church council.

Finally, he had his way and the boys were baptised.


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