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Jaramogi Odinga organized student airlifts to Russia after independence

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Jaramogi Odinga organized student airlifts to Russia after independence
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga

Declassified intelligence files show how Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Organised for a group of African students to join institutions of higher learning in the former soviet union and Eastern Europe this was to help Africanise the public sector immediately Kenya got independence.

On 18th September 1960 Odinga is reported have held a meeting in Kisumu with Argwings Kodhek, James Dennis Akumu, Joram Oyansi, Joseph Mathenge and Abdullahi Ibrahim Kimotho at which a proposal was put forward by Odinga himself and agreed by all present.

Intelligence letter
Odinga Communist Activities – Intelligence letter

According to this proposal one African student was to be selected from each district in the colony for studies in communist countries.

It was also agreed that students were to Obtain their own passports and have them endorsed with stamps to the USA or U.K, to which countries a desire to travel was unlikely to rise government suspicion.

Students with their passports ready were to travel through London where they would be met with Odinga’s contact in London Stanley Ngombu Njururi a communist suspect and who was now secretary of the Kenya students union in UK.

Odinga Communist Activities File - Bizna
Odinga Communist Activities File – Bizna

While students who had no passports or had little prospect of obtaining them were to make their way overland to Cairo through Ethiopia and Sudan where arrangements for their onward journey were to be made by ambassador Wera Ambitho Onyango, the pre-independence, secretary to Kenya office Cairo Egypt.

Odinga was also to send Hesborn Otieno Oyoo to Leipzig, East Germany to help route Kenya Students to destination behind the iron curtain.

But first he had three students in mind who he really wanted to be given immediate attention these included: Msanifu Kombo, Stanley Mwithiga secretary of KANU, Nakuru branch, who had previously attempted to obtain a scholarship to China and Musa Nyandusi the leader of KANU choir in Nairobi.

Odinga Communist Activities letter - Bizna
Odinga Communist Activities letter – Bizna

He also provided a ticket to Arthur Ochwada to travel to Beijing to attend a meeting at the all China federation of trade Union.

They were followed by Bonface Laurence Karanja and John Casius Sanda, the two were issued with passports in May 1960 and September 1960 respectively and arrived in London at the beginning of October, they were carrying letters from the Kenya African Education Society which was managed by Oginga.

A British intelligence brief on the two confirming their destination reads:”Karanja has now left for communist Europe via Berlin, while Sanda is known to be desirous of reaching a communist country and is likely to be leaving London at any time.”

it continues, “a Kikuyu named Timmen M. Gitau who on the 14th sept 1960 was issued with a passport to enable him to travel to the USA to study was repatriated to Kenya from Uganda on the 29th sept .After his return he is known to have contacted Oginga who promptly supplied him with his fare to East Germany.”Article contributed by Odhiambo

Other students who travelled to Cairo and were assisted by Wera Ambitho Onyango to get to East Germany were Joshua Ondiek Okello, Gideon Silas Owila, Zebedeo Omwando, Edwin Mpate and Elius Njagi to USSR while Mafthani Karenga went to Yugoslavia.

The report concludes:”All available information points to the fact that Oginga will pay the expenses of prospective students and there is little doubt that he has received considerable funds from the communists to enable him do this.”

The information used is declassified and legally obtained under UK FOI Act 2000.

Article contributed by Odhiambo Levin Opiyo, a journalist living in London, United Kingdom