Former Ugandan leader Idi Amin Dada’s actions in Uganda were directly responsible for the birth of Raila Odinga’s East African Spectre Limited – one of the region’s top manufacturers of liquid gas cylinders. Speaking in Nairobi on Friday Mr. Odinga revealed, in 1970 while teaching at the University of Nairobi, he was approached by an Indian technician who had a friend from Uganda selling his workshop wares, to get funds to escape to Britain, away from Idi Amin’s brutality.
”When teaching at the University of Nairobi, an Indian who was a technician came to me and said he had an Indian friend kicked out from Uganda. This Indian had uprooted all machinery from his workshop in Jinja and brought them to his friend’s yard in Parklands,” Mr. Odinga said.
Upon being told, Mr. Odinga accompanied the Indian technician to Parklands for a meeting with the fugitive and to also see the machines. At that time, the ODM leader said he only had a salary of Sh. 2000 and could not pay the ‘kalasinga’ who demanded Sh 12 000 for the entire equipment, forcing him to sell the first car he had – bought from Germany.
” I looked at all the machines there, the welding machines, sheet metal cutting machines, and the entire machinery from a workshop. He was selling them for 12,000 which I did not have. My salary was Sh 2000 per month. I had an Opel, left-hand drive which I had brought from Germany with me. I sold that Opel and got the Sh 12000 to pay that kalasinga and I got the machinery to start my limited, East African Spectre Limited today,” the ODM leader said.
Upon purchase of the workshop machinery, Raila says he went and rented a warehouse along Kingston Road (now Kampala Road) in Industrial Area to start manufacturing steel windows and steel doors before European businessmen approached him to manufacture for them gas cylinders.
East Africa Spectre started was established in 1971 at the Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE) sheds on Lusingeti road off Likoni Road in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. It was then known as Standard Processing Equipment Construction and Erection hence the name Spectre.
Being a pioneer in the field of Gas Cylinders manufacturing, it was a sole manufacturer of the product in East African region. The company’s market included major Oil companies like Total Kenya, Mobil Oil (now Libya Oil), Esso (bought out by Mobil), Shell among others.