Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga on Thursday met with a young fisherman who helped him escape to Uganda in 1991.
Raila said he was fleeing the country to Norway over fears that President Daniel Arap Moi’s brutal Kanu regime was plotting to assassinate him.
Robert Njura, then 19-years-old and a Form Three student at Makunda Secondary school in Budalangi, steered Odinga in a rickety boat across to safety in the neighbouring country, Uganda.
The former Prime Minister heaped praises on Njura for the courageous act after their meeting.
“Very humbling to meet Robert Njura who steered me in a boat across to safety in Uganda on my way to exile in Norway.
“Njura is testimony of what the energy, focus and dedication of the youth can accomplish. God bless him and our youth on this tenth anniversary of our constitution,” said Odinga after the meeting in Nairobi office.
In an interview with the local daily, Njura narrated that on that particular day in October 1991, just like his fellow fishermen, he was looking forward to attending a Benga entertainment event in the Lake Victoria island of Ndeda when his boss, Hezron Orori, a boat owner on the island, called him and his colleague, Sylvester Wademi, and informed them of an urgent trip to Uganda that evening.
“Some of the young men in our company refused to go. Okatch Biggy was in town and at the time he was the biggest name in Benga music. But I told Sylvester that I had come here to look for money for my school fees,” he said.
He later learnt that the trip was to help Odinga escape to safety after sneaking to Kisumu from Nairobi where police were hunting for him day and night ahead of a mega rally the pro-democracy groups had called.
At first, Njura thought their boss wanted them to smuggle goods to Uganda.
“We were fishermen, yes, but a lot happened in the lake, including facilitating illegal trade, and that was not unusual,” he said.
On reaching the picking point, they waited to be ordered to retrieve the goods they thought their boss had hidden among the rocks on the beach, a man emerged.
“He was dressed like a Legio Maria adherent. All alone. You know, at the lake fishermen believe in so many things. What crossed my mind when I saw this stranger was that perhaps the boss had invited him to pray for us before we embarked on our journey,” Njura said.
Since helping Odinga escape to safety, with the help of Makadara MP John Mutere they met twice with the first meeting being 1992 after Odinga returned from exile.
In the first meeting, they met at the canteen at Parliament Buildings.
“I did not talk much. After introductions, Raila took over and narrated the whole story to his colleagues. He gave me his phone number which I still have and told me to call him. He calls me ‘Msamia,” he said.
Njura has been mentioned in Odinga’s two biographies; Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics and Raila Odinga: The Flame of Freedom.