CORD leader Raila Odinga’s family has described the intense pain and shock they are undergoing following the sudden death of Raila’s son Fidel Castro Odinga on Sunday at his home in Karen, Nairobi.
Monday, Raila’s Karen home was in a sombre mood as he, his wife Ida, Fidel’s siblings Rosemary, Raila Junior and Winnie and wife Getachew Bekele tried to come to terms with the tragedy.
Raila and Ida were busy all day receiving guests coming to comfort them over their son’s loss, among them friends, family members and political allies and rivals. President Uhuru Kenyatta headed the list of high profile guests who visited the family home early Monday afternoon.
Details also emerged on why the family has remained tight-lipped since Fidel’s death. They said they are waiting for the autopsy reports to establish the exact cause of his death.
“Raila and the entire Jaramogi Odinga family have been keen on receiving autopsy results and scientific findings as opposed to responding to emotions before they can speak out freely,” said Dennis Onyango, Raila’s spokesman.
“Ida has been in tears and Jakom (Raila) has been in tears. It is arguably the lowest moment the family has come face to face with in Raila’s entire life. I cannot compare the Raila and Ida I have seen mourning Fidel to the couple I have worked with closely…not even the lowest moments including the controversial stolen election result of 2007 were they this low,” said Onyango.
He added, “Raila was very close to Fidel and he has been strong even in trying to come to terms with this tragedy. I have never seen him in this kind of state. He asked everybody in the family to remain controlled so as not to utter a word which may send wrong signals to Kenyans.”
It also emerged that the family seconded Raila’s elder brother Dr Oburu Oginga, a nominated MP, and Siaya Senator James Orengo to represent the family during autopsy investigations at the Lee Funeral Home.
As funeral arrangements were being finalised to give Fidel a decent send-off at the family graveyard in Kang’o Kajaramogi in Nyamira, Bondo constituency, Siaya County, family members spoke of losing one of their shining stars and the glue that bonded them together with love and linked them to friends and the business world.
Raila’s eldest daughter, Rosemary, recounted how a distress call from Fidel’s wife at 7.20am on Sunday morning threw the family into emergency mode before Raila and his wife rushed to their son’s Miotoni Road home in Karen fearing the worst but clinging onto the hope that all was not lost.
This was the beginning of a fresh chapter of pain, agony and shock for the family.
“I think the only person who has absorbed this is mum. She has come to terms with the reality that Fidel is dead. The rest of us, including dad, are still imagining he is just sleeping and will wake up. It is like a movie,” Rosemary said in interview.
“It has hit us hard. We are in a lot of pain and shock. We cannot keep him any longer because this will just keep the painful memories alive and weigh us down,” a teary Rosemary told The Standard in an exclusive interview at their Karen home, as she helped with itemising a programme for her brother’s final rites.
“I got this distress call from Fidel’s wife Lwam. It was a missed call at 7.20am and I returned the call moments later. The message was disturbing. She said Fidel was not breathing and she needed help. She had not called anybody else. I quickly telephoned my mother because she always answers calls. I narrated the situation and asked her and dad to respond,” Rosemary said.
“My parents responded with speed and rushed to Fidel’s home. They tried to resuscitate him in vain. My dad later called me back to say they had given up…that is how the family got the sad news. We are still in shock,” she recounted as friends arrived and occasionally disrupted our interviews.
Rosemary relived their childhood days with her late brother and described him as a disciplinarian who was very protective of every family member.
She recounted how Fidel loved reading books about revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Thomas Sankara, and had an undying love for the military.
“If Fidel was not from the Jaramogi family, he would have joined the armed forces. He really loved the military, but nobody would have ever dared enlist him,” Rosemary said.
Fidel spent time with his father on Saturday several hours before he breathed his last and that was the last moment the former Prime Minister saw and talked with his son.
Family members, friends and associates described Fidel as a down-to-earth, people-driven and unassuming personality who was generous.