Veteran Kenya opposition chief Odinga in hospital with Covid

Veteran Kenya opposition chief Odinga in hospital with Covid

Raila Odinga is a popular politician despite losing four presidential challenges

(—Kenya’s veteran opposition leader and former prime minister Raila Odinga, 76, is in hospital with Covid-19, his doctor said Thursday.

Odinga checked into hospital on Tuesday claiming fatigue, and his doctor David Oluoch-Olunya confirmed in a statement he had tested positive for Covid-19, but was “responding well to treatment” and “remains upbeat”.

Kenya is currently experiencing the start of a third wave of Covid infections, with an average positivity rate of almost 13 percent this week.

On Wednesday 12 people died, the highest number in one day this year. Both the South African and UK variants of the virus have been detected in the country.

Kenya has recorded over 110,000 Covid-19 cases and 1,899 deaths, and began vaccinating against the virus last week.

The country has been under some form of evening curfew for almost a year.

Odinga has been a mainstay of Kenyan politics since the 1980s, and remains hugely popular despite losing four shots at the presidency.

His loss in 2017 elections, which he claimed were rigged, led to political unrest which left more than 90 people dead.

The Supreme Court shocked the nation by ordering a rerun due to irregularities, which Odinga boycotted and President Uhuru Kenyatta won, deepening a political crisis.

However since then the country’s political landscape has completely altered.

In early 2018 Kenyatta and Odinga shook hands and pledged unity, joining forces and effectively leaving Kenya without an opposition.

The pair have criss-crossed the country holding massive rallies — despite Covid restrictions — pushing for a referendum on a raft of constitutional reforms, notably to bring back the position of prime minister before 2022 polls.

Kenyatta and Odinga say the measures will ease the scourge of election-related political violence in the country.

However suspicions are high Odinga is being lined up as successor to Kenyatta, who cannot seek a third term.

Meanwhile deputy president William Ruto, who had been promised Kenyatta’s backing for the top job in 2022 in exchange for his support in the past two elections, has been publicly, and bitterly, sidelined.

The political triangle has gripped the country with election fever and rallies — even though the vote is 18 months away.

Odinga also ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1997, 2007 and 2013.

His loss in 2007 triggered widespread politically motivated tribal violence that left more than 1,100 dead.

A political deal to stop the violence saw him take up the specially created position of prime minister until 2013.