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Voluntary exit or dismissal for Odinga?

Signs that President Ruto was behind opposition leader's departure from African Union post

Opposition leader Raila Odinga's exit from his role as the African Union Commission (AUC) envoy for infrastructure development in Africa has fired up debate over whether he jumped or, more likely, was pushed out from the role (AC Vol 60 No 25, Pouring cold water on the mega dam).

Odinga insists that he voluntarily opted out of the AU role. It had been secured from him by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 as part of the 'handshake' deal that marginalised then Deputy President William Ruto and set the scene for Odinga's unsuccessful bid for the presidency in August 2022 (AC Vol 59 No 6, Raila beats rivals to a new deal).

This all comes as Odinga's differences with the Ruto administration deepen and follow Ruto's steps up his purge of Kenyatta's allies.

However, a leaked AUC letter announcing the end of Odinga's tenure shared by Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Korir Sing'oei (who played a leading role in the Ruto election campaign) and briefings by officials in the AUC and State House indicate that Ruto demanded Odinga's removal from the post.

The letter was leaked following the end of last week's African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa.

In the letter, AUC chair Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed his gratitude for Odinga's acceptance to serve in the role which he 'during the transition period which has now come to a happy conclusion'. Mahamat was referring to the transition of the New Partnership for Africa's Development Agency (NEPAD) to the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD), which he said 'has now been completed with mandate to implement the continental agenda on infrastructure.'

Odinga claims that he had requested to be relieved of his duties and the arrangement was wholly by consent. It is hard to see how he could have remained as a representative of Ruto's government in Kenya, whose legitimacy he continues to contest at public rallies.

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