On Ghana trip, Ruto makes case for Raila's AU bid

William Ruto and Nana Akufo-Addo

President William Ruto and his host, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana at the Office of the President in Accra on April 3, 2024.

Photo credit: PCS

President William Ruto on Wednesday secured support from Ghana for Azimio leader Raila Odinga's bid to chair the African Union Commission after President Nana Akufo-Addo pledged his support.

It was the first such pitch by President Ruto in West Africa since a "handshake" of sorts with his former nemesis Raila Odinga, whom he has since publicly endorsed for the AU top job.

Ruto had previously pitched Raila to neighbours, but so far only Rwanda has publicly pledged its support.

Speaking during his state visit to the West African nation, President Ruto said Kenya's candidature was informed by its leading role in enhancing and sustaining the pan-African agenda.

"This is in terms of independence and sovereignty, peace and security, development and prosperity, and sustainability and climate action.

"We hope to work with all as we strive to achieve Africa's 2063 Agenda," said President Ruto.

He praised President Addo for supporting Kenya's quest for the AUC. At the joint press conference, Akufo-Addo focused on what was in it for his country.

"I have just sought President Ruto's support for the candidature of Ghana's dynamic Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, for the position of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth in the forthcoming elections to be held during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa in 2024," Akufo-Addo said. Akufo-Addo is likely to be out of office by the time the African Union Commission and Commonwealth elections are held. He is serving his last term before the presidential election due in December this year. The AU goes to the polls in February next year, while the Commonwealth votes in September. But it will matter less if Addo's party retains power.

"I thank you most sincerely, Your Excellency, for agreeing to support Kenya's candidature for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the period 2025-2028, which was initiated after an extensive cross-government stakeholder engagement process," the President said.

Ruto said Kenya will support Ghana's bid for the position of Commonwealth Secretary-General for 2024-2029. Ghana's Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey will be competing with Lesotho's candidate for the post.

"This is an opportunity for Kenya and Ghana to work together," he said.

President Ruto was expected to travel to Guinea-Bissau on the first official visit by a Kenyan leader to the West African country, where he was also expected to lobby for support.

The final timetable for the elections has not been set, but a panel of eminent persons was expected to meet in Addis Ababa this week to discuss the upcoming AUC elections and the timetable for applications.

"They are planning to publish or announce the vacancies for the AU Commission by the end of the week. The advertisements will run for two months, so the deadline for submitting applications is likely to be the first week of June," said Elkanah Odembo, a former Kenyan ambassador to the US who is now one of Odinga's strategists for the race.

"But our strategy will be to file well before the deadline."

This year, only candidates from the East Africa region will be eligible for the AUC chairmanship, as part of new rotation rules. After a rigorous vetting process, they will debate each other in a public televised forum where they will answer questions from the public.