‘I am grateful to President Ruto for backing my AU candidacy’- Raila

Tuesday, February 27th, 2024 10:28 | By
'I am grateful to President Ruto for backing my AU candidacy'- Raila
President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga after paying a visit to President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda on Monday, February 27, 2024. PHOTO/Raila Odinga(@railaodinga)/X

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has expressed his gratitude to President William Ruto for backing his candidacy for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson role.

The Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya coalition leader also thanked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for endorsing his bid for the continental role.

Raila made the remarks after visiting Museveni in Kampala in the company of the Kenyan Head of State who has embarked on intense lobbying to have Raila succeed Moussa Faki as the chair of AUC.

Talks about Raila's candidacy and Kenya's bilateral relations with the neighbouring country took center stage at the meeting

"Several days ago, I accepted an invitation from President Kaguta Museveni of Uganda for a joint meeting with President William Ruto today to discuss the deepening of regional integration within the East African Community.

"Crucially, at the urging of President Museveni, we also discussed my candidacy for Chairperson of the African Union Commission," Raila said in a statement on Monday night.

"I am very grateful to President Museveni for strongly endorsing my candidacy and to President Ruto for fully backing it," Raila added.

Raila, widely recognized as a champion of democracy and pan-Africanism, announced his bid for the AUC chairmanship on February 15, 2024.

Since then, high-ranking leaders in President Ruto's Kenya Kwanza administration and the Azimio coalition have endorsed the former prime minister for the plum job.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang'ula over the weekend expressed the need for Raila to transition to a different role after his longstanding position as Kenya's opposition chief.

"He has put every government on its toes all his life, sasa anataka kuenda (He wants to go to) Addis Ababa and he cannot get there without the blessing, support and sponsorship from the government of the Republic of Kenya," Wetang'ula said while addressing congregants at St. Charles Lwanga Kapchepkoro Catholic Church in Sotik Constituency, Bomet County, on Sunday.

"Na rais Ruto amesema kama mwenzetu anataka hiyo kazi, si ya Raila, ni ya nchi ya Kenya na akienda huko anaenda kufanyia wananchi wa Kenya. So acha haende Addis Ababa afanye kazi uko, hii ya hapa sisi tuendeshe (And President Ruto has said that if our colleague wants that job, it is not Raila's job, it is Kenya's job, and if he goes there, he is going to work for the people of Kenya. So let him go to Addis Ababa and work there, we will run this one here.)"

Put aside differences

Last week, Government Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura urged leaders to put aside their political differences and rally behind the former premier's candidacy.

Speaking to the media in Nairobi, Mwaura affirmed that President Ruto's administration was fully behind Raila's bid for the top AU job.

The spokesperson, however, told Kenyans not to read too much into the move, insisting that Raila is a statesman poised to elevate Kenya and the continent to greater heights.

“If he gets an opportunity to serve us at the AU as the chair, we as Kenyans forget all our differences and rally behind a fellow Kenya. If Mr. Odinga has expressed interest, we would rather have him there because when he is there the interests of Kenya are taken care of. We as government fully support his candidature,” Mwaura asserted.

President Ruto is said to have personally approached Raila to offer himself for the AU role.

However, Ruto's move is seen by a section of political pundits as an attempt to keep Raila busy away from Kenya's political arena, where he has been a thorn in the side of the Kenya Kwanza administration.

More on News