Raila A. Odinga: Astute Businessman or Corrupt Politician?

The sudden ostentatious display of wealth by Raila Odinga has left many baffled. Unbeknown to the public, Raila is a fabulously wealthy man in his own right with a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of Kshs. 4 billion. Read how the man who wants to be Kenya’s next president acquired his wealth which includes investments in the lucrative petroleum industry and in manufacturing.

How Raila acquired his billions.

Raila Odinga’s big break came in 2001 soon after he led his party, NDP, into a merger with KANU, the then ruling party. As Energy Minister in Moi’s government he was introduced to the family of Sheikh Abdukeder AlBakari, one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia with interests in petroleum drilling, petroleum exploration and export in the Middle East, Asia, USA and Africa.

Through the Saudi contacts,Raila was initiated into the lucrative world of oil business and soon enough he had joined the league of gig independent oil importers via his firm Pan African Petroleum Limited.

Industry sources say that one of the things that helped Raila make a quick buck in the oil business was a concessionary petroleum deal he struck with the Al Bakri Group where he was not only incorporated as a silent partner in the local arm of Al Bakri International but was also supplied with petroleum products from Saudi Arabia at subsidized prices which his firm would sell in the market at normal prices. That way,Raila was able to deftly beat the competition in oil business by occasional price undercutting.

While still Energy Minister,Raila re-established and nurtured his links with the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi where again he not only did good business in oil importation but also got substantial material support during the 2002 general elections.

Besides supporting Raila’s political causes, the Libyans also played a key role in stabilizing Raila in the oil business in a couple of ways. Industry sources say that between 2001 and 2002 when Raila served as Energy Minister,he received at least three consignments of petroleum products at very low prices which were later sold locally at market prices.

The overall turnover from the three Libyan consignments is reliably said to have been in the region of over half a billion shillings, a tidy sum of money in any language,enough to ensure that one crosses the Rubicon once and for all.

Raila’s enviable international links

Reliable sources say that Libyans bankrolled the NARC campaign with some US$ 3 million (about Kshs 210 million), thanks to Raila’s good contacts in the oil-rich land of Gadaffi. There is no doubt that if Raila becomes the ODM presidential candidate he can count on massive financial support from the Libyans once more.

Besides Libya, Raila enjoys good links with the South African government of Thabo Mbeki while in Nigeria he is known to have strong links with immediate former president Olosegun Obasanjo,who was a close friend of Raila’s late father Jaramogi.

That Libyans, South Africans and Nigerians had enough confidence in Raila to channel campaign funds through him although he himself was not a presidential in 2002 is an indication of how highly regarded he is in some international circles.

Evidently,he could certainly count on even more enthusiastic support from his international contacts should he become the ODM presidential candidate.

For Raila,the linkage between politics and business went much deeper than petroleum business. It is significant that the Odinga family business,Spectre International Ltd,acquired the then state-owned Kisumu Molasses Plant soon after Raila started politically cooperating with Moi.

Raila has consistently argued that the acquisition of the molasses plant was a pure business deal which had nothing to do with politics, but his critics point out at the coincidence between the time his family acquired the parastatal and Raila’s shift of political alliance. It is highly unlikely – indeed one may even say impossible – that the Moi government would have sanctioned the Kisumu Molasses Plant deal at the time if Raila had not become an ally of Moi’s.

Former commissioner of Lands Sammy Mwaita offered to sell the 240 acres on which the Kisumu Molasses Plant is built to Spectre International on January 11,2001 at a price of Kshs 3.6 million at a time when Odinga started working closely with Moi. By June of the same year, Raila was appointed to the cabinet and made Energy Minister.

Significantly, Spectre International had applied for the same land in a letter of February 18,1999 but the request had been rejected by the government at the time.

Titles were prepared in favour of Spectre International on February 3,2002 for a 99-year lease backdated to September 1,2001 and the Odinga family was ready to laugh all the way to the bank.

When the Odinga family started the process that led to the acquisition of the Kisumu Molasses Plant in 2001,Raila had already established good business contacts in South Africa. Energem Resources Incorporated,an international firm quoted at the Toronto Stock Exchange,had been looking for an investment opportunity in Kenya for a long time and the Kisumu Molasses Plant appeared just right.

Soon after taking over the plant from the government, Raila struck a lucrative deal with Energem whereby the Canadian firm bought 55 per cent of the Kisumu Molasses plant. Sources say that the Odinga family was paid over US$ 5 million (about Kshs 420 million) to relinquish the control of the molasses plant. The Odinga family had paid only Kshs 3.6 million for the property.

The Canadians also ploughed in millions of dollars to rehabilitate the plant and it is today one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the country employing hundreds of people and producing at least 60,000 litres of industrial ethanol for local consumption and export.

Ethanol from the Kisumu Molasses Plant is used as a fuel additive in east and Central Africa. Among other products coming out of the plant include yeast, carbon dioxide alcohol and related industrial products.

A valuation of the plant carried out three three years ago placed the Kisumu Molasses Plant at US$100 million (Kshs 7 billion). With the Odinga family owning 40 percent of the plant,putting the family’s stake in the plant in the region of Kshs 7.8 billion. The remaining five per cent shares in the plant are owned by a development trust on behalf of the local community.

Besides Kenya where Energem is in partnership with Raila in the Kisumu molasses plant business, now renamed Kisumu Ethanol Plant, other African countries where Energem’s presence is significant include Sierra Leone, Sao Tome, Congo Brazaville, Angola. Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),Chad and Central Africa republic.

Raila’s wealth at a glance

Estimated Worth

Spectre International Limited (the holding company for Kisumu Ethanol Plant)
Kshs 7 billion of which Odinga family owns 40 per cent whose value is approximately Kshs 2.8 billion

East African Spectre (the gas cylinder manufacturing plant founded by Raila’s late father)
Kshs 500 million

Raila’s family home in Karen Nairobi
Kshs 50 million

Runda House
Kshs 15 million

Pan African Petroleum Company (the firm through which the Odinga family imports and distributes petroleum products)
Has had a turnover in excess of Kshs 500 million.


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