African opposition leaders, ex-presidents, party members cram into US presidential conventions

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with the then Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga in 2012.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with the then Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga in 2012.
Image: Jacquelyn Martin
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Raila Odinga, Kenya’s current opposition leader, is caught in a bind. The former prime minister faces dissent within his own party, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, as tensions build toward next year’s general elections. Over the last few weeks, his party’s vice chairman and secretary general resigned, citing allegations of betrayal and lack of transparency. Last week, he went on a tour to western Kenya, a longtime regional stronghold for his party, whose leaders are now mired in divisions over whether to support him for the presidency next year.

On Saturday, Odinga dropped everything in his docket and flew to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. There, he expects to meet American leaders, according to a statement posted on his website by his spokesperson, Dennis Onyango. On Friday, he will give a lecture at Chatham House in London on the importance of democracy in Africa with a focus on Kenya’s experience. The move came as a surprise to many analysts, who thought he would stay at home to deal with the political challenges facing his candidacy.

Odinga is hardly the only Kenyan or African leader attending the four-day Democratic convention. He joins a league of 62 ex-presidents, party leaders, legislators and opposition members from across the continent who want to learn from the US political system, build their political stature and widen their appeal at the global level. Many of the leaders are invited as part of a three-decade initiative organized by the National Democratic Institute, a non-profit with a “loose affiliation” with the Democratic party. NDI confirmed that delegates from a total of 27 Africa countries will be present at Hillary Clinton’s unveiling, all of whom are paying for their own expenses to get to and stay in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, Odinga will be joined by his once-ally, now-opponent Musalia Mudavadi. The two leaders recently had a spat with Mudavadi accusing him of labeling his community as “stupid.” According to media reports, Mudavadi will be heading to Washington DC following the convention to hold high-level government meetings.

In attendance from Nigeria will be Odigie-Oyegun, the chairman of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress. His party’s secretary, Mai Mala Buni will be accompanying him on this trip. Isaías Samakuva, the president of the UNITA party in Angola, will also be attending the leaders’ forum. Since 2003, Samakuva has presided over UNITA, Angola’s largest opposition party. Rupiah Banda, the former president of Zambia, who once lost his immunity over allegations of fraud, will also be there. Botswana’s government confirmed the attendance of Mmasekoga Masire-Mwamba, the former deputy secretary general of the Commonwealth nations.

Last week, a Moroccan party leader appeared at the Republican convention, which took place in Cleveland, Ohio. Hamid Chabat, the Secretary General of the Istiqlal Party, stated in a Facebook post that his party was the “only Moroccan, Arab, and African party that received the honor of attending the Republican National Convention in Ohio, and to participate in the workshops and activities of the conference.”

Hamid Chabat is also the mayor of the city of Fes, the second largest city in Morocco, and home to al-Qarawiyyin, the oldest university in the world. According to, “200 foreign dignitaries and political operatives from roughly 100 nations, including Russia, Taiwan, South Korea, and Lebanon” attended the RNC in Cleveland.

The Democratic convention opens a day after Obama’s half-brother publicly said he will vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Malik Obama said told the New York Post that his brother didn’t help him when he ran as a governor in Siaya county in Kenya’s 2013 elections. President Obama visited the African continent four times during his presidency, the last of which was to Ethiopia, and his father’s homeland in Kenya.