Intrigues of new a handshake as Museveni hosts Kenyan rivals

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024 05:50 | By
ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) with former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo in Nairobi on February 15. PHOTO/Emmanuel Wanson
ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) with former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo in Nairobi on February 15. PHOTO/Emmanuel Wanson

The new camaraderie between President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga over the latter’s bid for African Union Commission chairperson seat has revealed a silent handshake between the two hitherto political foes.

Photos of President Ruto and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni alongside Raila in Uganda on Monday evening confounded allies and foes of the two leaders with speculation rife about a new political deal.

The surprise meeting left observers guessing if a handshake has happened between the two behind the curtains or if it is in the offing.

During the meeting at Museveni’s Kisozi farm in Western Uganda, the leaders discussed Raila’s candidacy for the African Union (AU) position. Raila is seeking support from different African countries to help him succeed current AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat when his term ends in February next year.
“I am very grateful to President Museveni for strongly endorsing my candidacy and to President Ruto for fully backing it,” Raila stated on his X account.

Political observers have now read a scheme that could have betrayed former President Uhuru Kenyatta and other Azimio leaders. Nairobi based lawyer and Governance Expert Javas Bigambo has said Raila and Ruto’s move can be referred to as a “heart shake” rather than a handshake.

Bigambo argues that Ruto badly needs a second term while Raila knows age is not on his side should he decide to vie for presidency again.

“I think it came to Raila’s realisation that he needs a peaceful sunset and that his interests are foremost however, selfish they may seem to be. This is not good for Azimio principals,” says Bigambo.

The analyst also says the newfound friendship between Raila and Ruto has left Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and other Azimio principals in a political dilemma.

He argues that the Wiper Party leader might even fail to inherit Raila’s political base in the next election should he ascend to the continental body’s helm.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party Nominated Senator Veronica Maina said Ruto’s support for Raila is not political and should not be read as such.

“President Ruto supporting Raila’s AU job bid has nothing to do with the role of the opposition because these are regional politics. The arguments that were put on social media due to the pictures of Ruto, Raila and Museveni together portrayed that some people have not moved on,” says Maina.

Raila’s rapprochement with Ruto has also extended to government officials who have begun trooping to his private offices, acts akin to events that followed his famous handshake with Uhuru in 2018.

Yesterday, Raila met Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage Aisha Jumwa alongside other leaders at his Capitol Hill Office where they discussed the two-thirds gender principle.

Following the meeting on Monday, President Ruto shared on X that he and President Museveni have “agreed on a way forward” and that “the issues affecting the flow of petroleum products between Kenya and Uganda are being resolved”.

Prior to the announcement by the two leaders, it had been established that a campaign team for Raila’s quest for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission had landed in Uganda to woo Museveni to support Raila’s bid.

The surprise meeting comes barely a week after Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing’oei revealed that Ruto was planning to unveil Raila’s candidature for the AUC post this week.

The meeting also lifted the lid on assertions made by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi in Raila’s Bondo backyard in Siaya county last month that a surprise announcement was in the offing.

While attending a church function in Bondo, Siaya County on January 28, Mudavadi hinted at a “surprise important and pleasant news” that he said would soon be revealed.

“Soon we will surprise you with some very important and pleasant news,” Mudavadi said.

Raila has also confirmed that he has started securing support for the position. “You know I have friends in West Africa apart from former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, I have friends in North, Southern and Central Africa, and of course Eastern Africa which is home,” he said.

Obasanjo who flanked Raila at a recent news conference in Nairobi, said he believes the former Prime Minister is the best bet for the top AU job, adding that he should however, not be the candidate for his country but of the Eastern Africa region.

“When you look at those who have held that position before, it should be the turn of East Africa. Not too long ago we had Southern Africa, the one now whose term will be ending (Moussa Faki) is from Central Africa and before that we had Konare (Alpha Oumar) from West Africa. I believe it should be the turn of Eastern or East Africa,” Obasanjo said.

He noted that if the Eastern region can come together and put Raila’s name forward, he will clinch the position.

“I have no doubt in my mind that my friend is a viable candidate. That’s of course, subject to the views, feelings and of course, the position and presentation of our leaders in the East African sub-region and then if the region puts the candidate forward the rest of the continent will go a long way with that. That’s what I’m consulting about. That’s what I’m working on and I hope God will help us,” added Obasanjo.

The holder of the office has overall responsibility for the Commission’s administration and finances. He or she is also supposed to promote and popularise the AU’s objectives and enhance its performance.
Most importantly, he or she is supposed to consult and coordinate with key stakeholders like Member States, development partners, and regional economic blocs.

The roles include facilitating the functioning, decision-making and reporting of all AU organ meetings, and ensuring conformity and harmony with agreed AU policies, strategies, programmes and projects.

The other duties are preparing the annual report on the AU and its organs’ activities, and submitting reports requested by the Assembly, Executive Council, Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), committees and any other organs.

Since 2002, there have been five Commission chairpersons. Moussa Faki Mahamat is the first to hold the position for two consecutive terms since 2017.

Previous chairpersons are South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (2012–17), Jean Ping of Gabon (2008–12) and Alpha Oumar Konaré of Mali (2003–08).

Amara Essy of Côte d’Ivoire led the transition team between AOU and AU 2002–03. All these were younger than 70 when they took office. Commission chairpersons are elected by secret ballot as opposed to the Assembly chairperson often chosen by consensus.

The Commission chairperson must garner two-thirds majority of the present voting members.

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