Jump to navigation

Kenya

Raila Odinga's bid for AU chair wins consensus in Nairobi

The race to run the top diplomatic grouping will intensify despite its multiple funding and security threats

The announcement on the eve of the 17-18 February African Union summit by Kenya's veteran opposition leader Raila Amolo Odinga that he wants to take over from Chad's Moussa Faki Mahamat as chair of the AU Commission next year has prompted a rare outbreak of consensus among politicians in Nairobi.

After Odinga declared his interest in the job as a press conference at his Nairobi home on 16 February, in the presence of his friend, Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Kenya's political establishment has moved quickly to support him.

Securing Odinga the job would be a diplomatic coup for President William Ruto while also easing his path to an increasingly probable second term in office. Should he win the race to take charge of the AU's executive arm, Odinga would be unable to contest the 2028 presidential elections in Kenya.

With no obvious heir to Odinga from his Luo community in Nyanza, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka would expect to take over the leadership of the Azimio la Umoja opposition coalition and be its candidate in 2028. That would also make it easier for Ruto to co-opt Odinga's allies in the Orange Democratic Movement (AC Vol 64 No 19, Cross-party talks open, carrots provided).

Both the Ruto government and Musyoka quickly endorsed Odinga for the AU job, along with trade union leader Francis Atwoli.

Early indications are that Tanzania's former President Jakaya Kikwete will also seek the position, which AU officials say is likely to go to an East African. Kikwete, who has also run Tanzania's foreign ministry, is extremely close to current President Samia Suluhu Hassan and would be likely to get strong official endorsement.

Less clear is whether the 79-year old Odinga is a suitable candidate for what is essentially a details-focused civil service post. The other question is whether Ruto, who was appointed by AU leaders to preside over the elections for the Commission post, will have the bandwidth to lobby on Odinga's behalf.



Related Articles

Cross-party talks open, carrots provided

A new cross-party committee will strengthen ambitious politicians and steer clear of the cost-of-living crisis

The prospect of a political deal between President William Ruto and opposition Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga is unsettling some of their followers and allies who fear they co...


A tangled web

The government opposes land-grabs, which could threaten its own estates

'We do not wish to be infected by the Zimbabwe virus'. That was how the head of Kenya's civil service, Richard Leakey, reacted to press reports in early June that squatters had occ...


La francophonie grabs the focus

A heavy emphasis on French-speaking countries risks derailing the coming African Union and European Union summit in Brussels

To general surprise, Europe's French and Belgian leaders have not invited any of Africa's Anglophone or Lusophone states to preparatory talks ahead of a critical regional summit.


Murder most foul

A horrifying assassination has set the country on edge just days before an already tense general election

It was a political killing in the country's worst tradition. Musalia Mudavadi, a joint leader of the opposition, called it 'a dagger into the heart of Kenyan democracy' and Preside...

READ FOR FREE