Nairobi News


Raila in Dubai for ‘minor’ back surgery, family confirms

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga is in a Dubai hospital for surgery, his family confirmed Wednesday, ending days of speculation on his whereabouts.

Mr Odinga’s brother, Dr Oburu Oginga, told the Nation that the former prime minister left the country on Sunday for the United Arab Emirates.

“Jakom (Raila) is out of the country for a minor surgical operation on his back. It is not a serious health issue, but just a minor one. So, he’s okay,” Dr Oginga said.

The East African Legislative Assembly member, who is the Odinga family spokesperson, revealed that Mr Odinga, 75, was admitted to a German hospital in Dubai.

Without disclosing the name of the facility, Dr Oginga said: “The Germans have a good hospital facility in the Arabian country where he’s being monitored.”

He dismissed social media reports that Mr Odinga had gone to China for treatment. “He’s not in China. The last time he was there, I think, was in November last year before the coronavirus pandemic. Right now, if you want to go there, you must be ready for a 14-day military quarantine. That’s not tenable, so there is no way he could have gone there,” he said.

Dr Oginga would not confirm or deny reports that the politician had left the country in an air ambulance, or say who accompanied him.

“That was a private arrangement that I cannot discuss,” he said.

Earlier, multiple sources within Mr Odinga’s family had confirmed that he was out of the country, but said he had gone on an official assignment as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

“Jakom is as fit as a fiddle. He flew out of the country for an assignment and is okay, but I can’t speak for him and the family,” a close relation who sought anonymity said earlier.

Another relative said Mr Odinga was active in the family WhatsApp group and briefed them on his trip. They declined to be named as they are not family spokespersons.

On Monday, Mr Odinga posted on his Twitter handle the banner of a virtual pan-African Conference on the Grand Inga Dam, where he and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi were listed as speakers.

“Join us for the start of the virtual Pan African Conference,” he wrote.

“The project aims to unlock the world’s largest hydropower scheme and is part of the vision to develop a continental power system that is key to Africa’s manufacturing and value addition ambitions.” He later posted a video clip of his address.

On Tuesday, ODM Communication Director Philip Etale said he had spoken with Mr Odinga on work-related issues and politics. He confirmed Mr Odinga was out of the country on an AU assignment, but did not reveal where.

“The truth of the matter is Hon Raila Amollo Odinga travelled out of the country on Sunday afternoon. He stated while addressing the media outside Kemri offices that he would soon be travelling out of the country on African Union assignments… He travelled as earlier indicated,” Mr Etale said in a statement.

He dismissed as a lie a report that Mr Odinga had been flown out of the country for treatment.

“Raila Odinga is a human being. In 2010, when he fell sick, it was made public. He was admitted and treated at Nairobi Hospital. He was Prime Minister then. He has on other occasions been taken ill and sought treatment at local facilities… If he were sick today, Dennis Onyango [Communications Director at the Raila Odinga Secretariat] or myself would not have hesitated to let the public know,” Mr Etale said.

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna had also earlier dismissed as false claims of Mr Odinga’s illness, terming them the “work of Deputy President William Ruto’s Tangatanga brigade.”

Another relative stated that Mr Odinga had earlier informed them that he had planned other overseas trips even before the claims of his illness began.

“As far as I’m concerned, Jakom is in Kinshasa,” the relative said.

In June 2010, Mr Odinga underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain after initial reports indicated that he was admitted to hospital for exhaustion.