Why Ruto wants Raila to take up Africa Union job

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024 03:02 | By
Opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses a crowd at Kongowea Market in Mombasa County yesterday. He is with Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir (right). PHOTO/ Bonny Msangi
Opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses a crowd at Kongowea Market in Mombasa County yesterday. He is with Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir (right). PHOTO/ Bonny Msangi

Pressure is piling up on opposition leader Raila Odinga to take up the position of the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, as the current chair Moussa Faki Mahamat’s term of office inches closer to an end.

Highly placed sources have disclosed to People Daily that there has been intense lobbying by people within President William Ruto’s administration to convince Raila to offer himself for the AU office.

A source from Raila’s inner circles disclosed that President Ruto personally approached the ODM leader with the proposal and promised to rally the government’s support for his AU office candidature should he accept the offer.

Mahamat, who is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, is set to leave office in March next year.

The push from Ruto’s administration to try and convince Raila to take the helm at the AU office, is being seen as a targeted to keep him busy away from the political arena where he has been a headache for Ruto.

Biggest threat

Though likely to raise Raila’s stature, the move, according to those privy to the President’s thinking, will effectively mellow down the Opposition chief who will be required to adopt a diplomatic mien that is demanded of the continental job.

Besides, it will gag him from active political campaigns for himself or another candidate, perceived to be Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

With Raila currently standing out as Ruto’ s fiercest political threat, pundits and governance experts believe by taking the AU position, the opposition leader would have automatically bolstered the incumbent’s chances of re-election in 2027.

However, others like Prof Fred Ogola of Operation Linda Ugatuzi (OLU), believe Ruto should not be concerned about Raila as his only political rival as there could be other surprise opponents who can give him a tougher run than Raila.

Full-time job

On whether Raila should consider the AU position or not, Ogola suggests that the Azimio boss should consider a number of factors including whether he will maintain his political turf, his family and what will happen to his ODM party if he leaves for the Addis Ababa office.

“I would advise Raila to take the office because this is in his hands and it is coming before the elections. If they were sequential games where it was happening simultaneously with elections it could be different.

However he can go to that office and then let him see what happens there he might not like it and come back. Now the problem of going there and coming back is what will be the perception on the ground, how will he deal with that perception? Can he continue being relevant? The AU council chair is not a part time office where he will often be reconnecting with his turf,” he explained:

Should Raila accept the overtures, then the government could present his name to the AU Commission Secretariat when the position is declared vacant.

The African Union Member President summit will meet in July this year to declare the AU Chief’s seat vacant and thereafter the door will be open for interested candidates to submit their applications.

As a key requirement, candidates must be endorsed by their respective governments.

Since its inception, the position has been occupied by a former President, ex-Mali leader Alpha Konare, and two foreign ministers, including the incumbent.

Mahamat took over from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma following a hotly contested election. Voting was postponed from July 2016 to January 2017 after none of the candidates managed to get a two-thirds majority.

Mahamat only joined the race in the second round and ultimately established himself as a consensual candidate for African heads of State and government.

Technically, the chairperson of the AUC is charged with the Commission’s administration and finances, promoting and popularising the union’s objectives and enhancing its performance.


The role also involves consulting and coordinating with key stakeholders like member states, development partners and appointing and managing Commission staff.

The commission chair also acts as a depository for all AU treaties and legal instruments.

The Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) also allows the chair to use their powers in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts on the continent.

Given that the Head of State who is chosen to chair the AU has only a one-year term, the AUC chairperson plays an important role in ensuring the continuity of work at the Commission.

Former Kakamega Governor, who is also ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, revealed that there have been advances from the government about the position but so far there has been no comment from the ODM party leader.

“It will be upon Raila to decide whether he wants the position or not. He will not be forced or coerced to take it,” Oparanya said.

In October 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Raila the High Representative for Infrastructure in Africa.

The appointment came six months after he and Uhuru reached a political truce, popularly known as the Handshake. Uhuru played a crucial role in influencing the appointment.

In the role, Raila was tasked with the integration of the continent through infrastructure, to promote economic growth and sustainable development.

He held the position until February last year when AU announced the end of his tenure.

In a statement by the chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU said the end of the role came after the continental body completed the transformation of NEPAD Agency to the African Union Development Agency-Nepad.

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