Francis Atwoli comes out fighting in dispute over Cotu remittances

Francis Atwoli

Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli addresses journalists at Cotu headquarters in Nairobi on April 16, 2024.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Atwoli calls on the government to launch an investigation against Mr Mohamed.
  • Cotu boss says he is unfazed by reports that Mr Mohamed is acting on behalf of powerful forces.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli has launched a fierce fight back against Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) over its directive on the cessation of deductions and remittances of private security officers’ trade union fees contributions to the organisation.

Speaking at the Cotu offices in Nairobi on Tuesday, Mr Atwoli accused PSRA Chief Executive Fazul Mohamed of destabilising and interfering with not only the operations of Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU), but also the tripartite partners, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE), and Cotu-K.

“In a manner to profess his megalomaniac character, Fazul has christened himself as the Employer, Regulator, and Union, at the same time. Without a doubt, the path Fazul has taken can only come to a tragic end following his Hyena-like dilemma,” Atwoli charged.

On Monday, PSRA announced that it had instituted an investigation on the collection and use of all finances that have been deducted and remitted to Cotu by private security companies which, it noted, run into billions of shillings.

Mr Mohamed, the PSRA CEO, said this was initiated following “numerous complaints from private security officers,” and is aimed at “protecting the welfare and rights of over 1.3 million private security guards.”

Mr Atwoli was flanked by other union officials including Cotu chairman Joel Kandie Chebii, assistant secretary Ernest Nadome, Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Collins Oyuu, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary General Akello Misori and Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) Secretary General Erick Oduor among other top trade unionist in the country.

Mr Atwoli also called on the government to launch an investigation against Mr Mohamed.

“At this point, Cotu urges the ODPP to expedite the prosecution of Fazul due to his alleged criminal activities, which led to his appointment as CEO of the NGO Board. If the ODPP fails to prosecute Fazul promptly, Cotu will engage a private prosecutor to protect Kenyan workers from this individual,” he said.

Mr Atwoli also reiterated that Cotu-K is a free and independent trade union that is neither regulated by Private Security Regulatory Authority nor any other government agency. 

“As such the demands contained in the letter by PSRA can only be made by the union members and the respective union," Atwoli said.

He explained that the dues Cotu receives from Private Security Workers, through their Union’s Affiliation to Cotu, is as a consequence of a gazette notice by the Ministry of Labour, dated September 2, 2016, considering the labour laws and the requirements of the constitution of Cotu.

Mr Atwoli said he has been the leading champion of the rights and welfare of Private Security Workers in Kenya.

“This has led to not only the formation of Kenya National Private Security Workers Union but also the union being represented in the Cotu Executive Board,” he said.

Mr Atwoli, who has held his current position for 23 years, has been battling a proposed Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill, 2024 that seeks to set term limit for union officials.

He has also faced criticism for his perceived lukewarm support for the ongoing health workers’ strike.

However, On Tuesday, the Cotu boss said he is unfazed by reports that Mr Mohamed is acting on behalf of some powerful forces.

"We shall stop him even if he has a thousand heavy tanks behind him," Atwoli said.

“I want to say that I will never be under siege. Even when there is high voltage politics, I can never be under siege,” he charged.

He dismissed Mr Mohamed as a non-entity, who cannot “purport to speak on behalf of the security guards.”

In light of Atwoli's current predicament, some pundits are of the view that the chickens may have just come home to roost for the firebrand trade unionist who aggressively campaign for Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga during the 2022 General Elections.

Following Mr Odinga's election loss, the Cotu boss, probably out of an abundance of caution, made an immediate about-turn and joined President William Ruto’s political camp.

But other sources have intimated to Nation.Africa that PSRA, which is a state corporation, could not issue a stern directive over the security guards’ funds without government influence.