After hurriedly sneaking his son Oburu Oginga from Kenya in February 1962 for further studies in Russia, Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga at one time fell out with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Sellasie in Addis Ababa after he (Selassie) demanded the arrest of Oburu ( who was just a boy in his teens) following a call from Nairobi by the head of British colony, Governor Patrick Reson who had earlier denied Oburu traveling papers out of Kenya for being a ‘security threat’. Oginga was in Addis Ababa for the first the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East, Central, and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA) conference in Addis Ababa.
”The conference was officially opened on February 2, 1962, by Emperor Haile Selassie. As I savored these historical memories in the making, back in Kenya, the colonial administration realised my father had played a trick on them and they set things in motion to hit back at Jaramogi. Governor Sir Patrick Renison called Emperor Haile Selassie and explained that one of his subjects had been smuggled through his airport to Addis Ababa. He requested the Emperor to arrest and deport me back to Nairobi for prosecution,” Dr. Oburu documents in his new autobiography ‘In the Shadows of My Father.’
Upon receiving the call, the Ethiopian Emperor directed his military men to immediately arrest the young Oburu, in the presence of Jaramogi, something the first Vice President did not take lightly and decided to face Haile Selassie head-on. Oginga was shocked by the sudden turn of events given that the Ethiopian leader had earlier in his residence hosted him for breakfast together with Oburu.
”Surprisingly, the Emperor obeyed the governor’s request. I was promptly arrested and handcuffed at the Addis Ababa airport when we boarded a Khartoum-bound aircraft on our way to London. We were shocked because just a few hours earlier, my father had even taken me to Haile Selassie’s palace and introduced me to the Emperor. We even received a warm welcome and tea was served as the two elders chatted away,” the EALA MP continues.
Oburu explains Jaramogi caused a scene at the airport, protesting loudly at the arrest of his son by Ethiopian authorities and bringing everything to a standstill. The first VP was in the company of Sudanese Foreign Minister who had seen what just happened and vowed not to leave Oginga and the arrested Oburu. It was during the drama at the airport in Addis that Jaramogi decided to call Emperor Selassie to give him a piece of his mind.
”When connected, Jaramogi categorically told the Emperor how back home he was fighting against colonial oppression in Kenya, yet the same oppressors were extending their conflict to innocent children. He then bluntly told Haile Selassie “ if you allow the Kenyan colonial governor to have his way with my son, then you shall be complicit in helping our oppressors to achieve their dirty aims”. Hearing this, Emperor Haile Selassie ordered his men to let me go. In the meantime, the Sudanese aircraft we were bound to board was still waiting on the runway. In any case, their senior minister had also not boarded,” Dr. Oburu says.
At the height of agitation of self-rule towards 1961, the colonial administration had marked Jaramogi Oginga Odinga as a trouble-maker and an ‘irascible Africanist, determined to wreck the course of the colony’. His frequent statements on the political destiny of free men angered the British who were determined to punish him.
It was these politically charged pronouncements that led to the colonial administration refusing to give Oburu travel documents, saying he was a security threat by virtue of being an Odinga.