Raila’s AU top job bid rattles allies

Monday, February 19th, 2024 04:20 | By
Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (right) and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna at Kenyatta Market in Nairobi after attending a church service yesterday. PHOTO/ Kenna Claude
Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (right) and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna at Kenyatta Market in Nairobi after attending a church service yesterday. PHOTO/ Kenna Claude

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s surprise announcement that he will vie for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission has rattled his loyalists, with the party now calling for a crucial meeting to chart its future.

ODM chairman John Mbadi yesterday said the Central Committee meeting will be held once Raila returns from a trip abroad.

“As a party we will sit as a central committee to make a pronouncement on the future of ODM and I want to tell our supporters that there is no cause for alarm,” he said.

Mbadi however maintained that Raila will still remain their leader whether he is the AU Commission chairman or not.

“In ODM, our leader is Raila Amolo Odinga, when he says right, we will all move right, when he says left, we will all move to the left. It should go out clearly that there is no panic since we have competency in ODM,” said the ODM nominated MP.

He added that Raila’s departure to head the AU secretariat would not derail any of its agenda.

Mbadi said Raila has the capacity and competency to take up the leadership of the commission.

He said Raila’s stature and position in Africa is well documented and known and he is the best leader who can fit in the shoes of the incumbent Moussa Faki of Chad whose tenure is coming to an end.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed at the same time said that the party’s Central Committee will give the way forward on plans and activities of the party once Raila returns to the country. Details of Raila’s trip were not revealed.

He, however, told supporters to remain calm saying Raila has a meticulous plan regarding how ODM will move forward even if he were to land the AU job.

“To those who are worried about Raila’s plans to exit from the country’s active politics, I want to tell them not to worry. Raila has got plans on how he will juggle between the AU job and the party and country’s politics,” he said.

Separately, Wiper leader Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka yesterday assured opposition supporters Raila’s interest in the seat will not create cracks in the opposition coalition.

“We met as a coalition and decided to back Raila’s bid for this seat,” said Kalonzo.

He urged opposition supporters not to be worried that there will be a vacuum in the opposition should Raila clinch the continental job.


The Wiper Party leader, who has announced his bid for presidency in the next election, has promised to use his diplomatic networks to help Raila clinch the seat.

“I will endeavour to use my networks to see that Raila gets the position. Instead of fighting to be president here, he will now be working with all the 54 presidents from the continent,” said Kalonzo.

He praised Raila’s political credentials and continental networks, noting that the opposition leader has been an envoy for infrastructure at continental level.

There have been concerns over a leadership gap in ODM and the opposition in the event that Raila gets the AU job.

During his announcement, Raila said he was the right candidate for the AU Commission chairmanship.

“Today, I want to make it public that I am ready to go for the chairmanship of the Africa Union,” said Raila during a press briefing last Thursday.

The former Prime Minister also received backing from former Nigeria president and AU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo.

“We believe that people who have held the positions of head of government like at PM level will be able to knock on the door of incumbent PMs, Presidents without much ado. Such people would probably be the right persons armed with other attributes at this particular time,” he said.

A candidate for AU Commission chairman must be fronted by a member state, meaning President Ruto’s administration will be spearheading Raila’s candidature.

Should Raila become the next AU Commission chair, it means that he will have to exit the country’s politics.

A holder of such a position is expected to remain neutral on issues related to development, conflicts and politics in all African countries.

This means that Raila will become a critical player in major international happenings not just in Africa, but across the globe.

The appointment might effectively lock the opposition leader out of the 2027 General Election.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi called for a stop to ‘political doom mongering’ about what would happen if Raila goes to AU.

Wandayi spoke as several ODM MPs, Governors, legal experts, scholars, UDA party, and Central Organization of Trade Unions boss Francis Atwoli endorsed Raila for the continental post.

Atwoli said the Azimio leader fits the bill for the job.

And yesterday, UDA party Secretary General Cleophas Malala said the former prime minister has vast experience on the African continent and deserves to be the next AU chairperson.

“As the UDA Kenya party, and in the spirit of patriotism, we have announced our undoubted support for the candidature of the Right Hon Raila Odinga as chair of the African Union Commission,” Malala said.

—Roports by Habil Onyango, Kepher Otieno and Barack Oduor

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