Cotu boss Francis Atwoli has left his labour watchdog role to Azimio, Raila says

Raila and Atwoli

Azimio leader Raila Odinga (right) confers with COTU secretary general Francis Atwoli at Kapchemugung Secondary School grounds in Vihiga county on September 2, 2023 during burial service of former COTU chairman the late Rajab Mwondi.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga on Sunday lashed out at Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli for the second time since their falling out.

According to Mr Odinga, Mr Atwoli has forgotten his role as a labour watchdog and has instead taken to dining with the government.

Addressing residents of Narok town on September 3 evening, Mr Odinga said Mr Atwoli had already "gone to bed with the government" and was no longer fulfilling his duties of defending the interests of Kenyan workers.

"The labour movement has gone to bed with this regime. Kenyan workers are now on their own," the former prime minister said.

Mr Atwoli was Odinga's biggest cheerleader in the run-up to the August 2022 elections.

After the elections, he switched to supporting President William Ruto.

"As the leader of the labour union, you [Mr Atwoli] should be at the forefront of defending the interests of the workers. We are now doing your job," Mr Odinga continued.

"If the workers' union is allied with the government, there will be a problem. There are usually three sides: the workers, the government and the employers. Each has its own point of view," he added.

Mr Atwoli has lashed out at the opposition over the recent street demonstrations, saying the mass action has damaged the economy.

Speaking during an interdenominational church service attended by President Ruto in Bungoma County last week, Mr Atwoli said those with jobs were busy serving the nation.

And on Saturday, the Cotu boss clashed with Mr Odinga during the burial of the union's chairperson Rajabu Mwondi in Hamisi, Vihiga County.

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Mr Atwoli accused Azimio leaders who attended the funeral led by Mr Odinga that they had no offices and that was why they were disrupting the government's focus on development.

"The truth is that these Azimio leaders have no offices. Tell me where Eugine Wamalwa's office is, where Wajackoyah's office is," Mr Atwoli said.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Odinga attended the housewarming ceremony of County Assembly nominee Christine Lemein at Lenana Estate in Narok Town where he also warned President William Ruto against taking the country into the dark Nyayo era.

Speaking at the event, Mr Odinga told President William Ruto to stop "threatening Kenyans with death".

"The Kenya Kwanza leadership is the worst Kenya has ever had, many people died in the recent protests, yet the President is threatening to send more people to heaven. Who is he? Is he God who sends people to heaven?" Mr Odinga wondered.

Mr Odinga was accompanied by former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, former Narok North MP and Narok 2022 gubernatorial aspirant Richard Moitalel Ole Kenta, among other Azimio leaders.

After the event, Mr Odinga's convoy snaked through Narok town where the former Prime Minister stopped to greet residents.