AU job will not reduce Raila Odinga’s political stature, Gladys Wanga says

Raila Odinga and Gladys Wanga

Azimio One Kenya leader Raila Odinga confers with Homa Bay County Governor Gladys Wanga during the official opening ceremony of the Raila Odinga Homa Bay Stadium on June 30, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ms Wanga said ODM members are ready to popularise the party even if Mr Odinga quits active politics.
  • Mr Odinga has since stated that landing the AU job would be a sabbatical and not political retirement.

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga has allayed fears that Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga risks sinking into political oblivion should he be successful in his quest for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairmanship job.

Governor Wanga said she believes Mr Odinga’s probable transition from active politics in the country to a continental job will not affect his political influence in the country.

Last week, Mr Odinga formally declared interest in AU’s topmost job. Mr Odinga has since stated that landing the AU job would be a sabbatical and not political retirement.

Ms Wanga, who is the ODM chairperson in Homa Bay County, said she is confident Mr Odinga will not lose his political clout even if he takes up the AU job.

"There are those imagining that this is a way of pushing him out of politics. They don't know that Raila is a force to be reckoned with," Ms Wanga said.

She also said ODM members are ready to popularise the party even if Mr Odinga quits active politics.

“There will be no vacuum in the party. Raila is like an institution and does not need to hold a formal position in a party to command political support," Ms Wanga said.

The governor further said Mr Odinga’s leadership is crucial not only for Kenya, but also for the entire continent. 

Governor Wanga said the former Prime Minister is the most suitable candidate to replace the outgoing AUC chair Moussa Faki.

Governor Wanga explained that the AU job requires courage, confidence, and self-belief, adding that Mr Odinga possesses all these attributes.

"He has the experience, the vision, and the dedication to lead Africa into a new era of prosperity and progress. Truly, there is a significant convergence of the man and the moment," Ms Wanga said.

Ms Wanga now joins a growing list of politicians across the political divide in the country who have openly endorsed Mr Odinga’s candidature. 

The ODM leader has also been backed by former Nigerian president and AU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Speaking in Nairobi last week when he formally announced his interest in the seat, Mr Odinga said he is ready to serve in that position, having previously held the position of AU High Representative for Infrastructure.

Mr Odinga, who was accompanied by former Mr Obasanjo, said he has consulted widely over the matter.

"Serving as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure gave me the advantage of learning about each African country. I believe by working together, we can emancipate Africa," Mr Odinga said.

While endorsing Mr Odinga's candidature, Mr Obasanjo said it is the right time for a person from Eastern Africa to head the AU Commission and that he believes Mr Odinga will be a viable candidate.

"We need a person with experience, a person who understands the situation we are in and a person who comes from a background that can make a difference," Mr Obasanjo said.

"We believe people who have held positions of head of government as Prime Minister or President will be the right people at this particular time to hold the AUC position," he added.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who is also the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, has also made it apparent that President William Ruto’s administration is vouching for Mr Odinga to capture the continental seat.

Speaking last week on the sidelines of the 44th Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council of Foreign Ministers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week, Mr Mudavadi said East Africa is ready to produce the next chairperson of the African Union Commission.

"South, Central and West Africa have had a share of the chairmanship on several occasions since 2002. East and North Africa have yet to have that opportunity," Mr Mudavadi said.

Mr Odinga has also received the backing of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli.

Mr Atwoli said a successful quest by Mr Odinga would solidify Kenya’s stature at the continental and global levels as well as attract both direct and indirect investments locally.

“The position will be very useful for the country in terms of funding Kenya’s programmes and development of infrastructure,” Mr Atwoli said during a press briefing in Kisumu on Friday.

As the President of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), Mr Atwoli said he would get an easy time to walk into his office and strengthen the continental labour movement.