Raila Odinga
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Raila's AUC campaign facing fresh turbulence

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Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga during a press briefing on the status of Kenya's candidacy for the African Union chairmanship in Nairobi on June 5, 2024.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s campaign for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC) is in limbo ahead of the elections in February next year.

Although President William Ruto, top Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs officials, and Mr Odinga have reached out to various Heads of State to drum up support for the country’s bid, the Nation has learnt that other pertinent issues have yet to be addressed.

Mr Odinga has also launched fresh attacks on the government, stating that the recent anti-tax protests were a clear indication of a vote of no confidence in the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary of Kenya.

“What happened was a vote of no confidence. The people of Kenya spoke loudly that they don’t have confidence in Parliament and occupied it even eating food from there," Mr Odinga said on Saturday during the burial of comedian Fred Omondi in Ugenya, Siaya County.

“They also went to the office of the Chief Justice blaming while accusing the Judiciary for the problems we are facing as a country," he added.

The ODM leader said this was a clear message that the public does not have confidence on three institutions – Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.

Apart from Mr Odinga’s tough stance against the government, which is backing his AUC bid, by Sunday Kenya was yet to submit his candidacy as promised, further lifting the lid on the confusion now surrounding his bid.

Whereas Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi announced that Kenya would submit its candidacy for the position by June 30 during a joint briefing with Mr Odinga early last month (June), this is not the case.

Reliable sources privy to the campaign told the Nation that it was not tenable to submit Mr Odinga’s candidacy by end of June “since there is still no consensus on what to be submitted.”

The commission had set tough conditions and set a deadline of August 6 for the submission of candidatures for the post.

In a communique by the Office of the Legal Council last Month, the commission said each candidate for the position of Chairperson shall be required to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) in the approved AU format, together with a short write up on his or her vision for the position.

This should outline how they intend to address the most pressing issues facing AU and the continent in at least two working languages of the Union. 

"Member States of the Eastern region are encouraged to submit the CVs and vision of the candidates in all the six languages of the Union,” the communique reads.

This means Mr Odinga, and the other candidates who have expressed interests in the position, are required to submit their CVs and vision in English, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Kiswahili.

The Nation has established that the presidency, Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs and Mr Odinga are yet to meet to harmonize the application before it is submitted.

One of Mr Odinga’s campaign strategists, Kenya's former ambassador to the United States, Mr Elkanah Odembo, told the Nation that the submission of Mr Odinga’s candidacy is likely to delay until mid-July.

“We have a bit more work to do. We must convene a meeting of the teams (Presidency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the candidate) to ensure alignment and consensus on what is to be submitted. So most likely we shall submit by mid-July,” Mr Odembo told Nation.

While Mr Odinga’s camp had formed its strategy team consisting of Mr Odembo, former Executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) Mahboub Maalim, Amb. Anthony Okara, Prof Makau Mutua and former Nyeri Deputy Governor Dr Caroline Karugu, the Government side is yet to name its team to facilitate a joint working plan.

“We also don’t have a secretariat in place and a budget to facilitate the campaigns is also yet to be confirmed,” another source revealed.

Apart from Mr Odinga, the other candidates in the race are Djibouti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahmoud Youssouf, Seychelles former Vice President Vincent Meriton and Somalia's former Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf.

In Kenya’s previous failed bid to capture the AUC chairmanship, it spent Sh437 million in the campaign that was led by then Deputy President William Ruto, now the Head of State.

Data submitted to Parliament then showed that Sh437,776, 982 was spent in the campaigns, exceeding the set confidential expenditure by Sh52,095,299.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earmarked Sh385,681,683 for expenditure linked to campaigns for the then Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed’s bid for the post in the year to June 2017.

"AUC campaign expenditure as captured in the initial working schedules, however, stood at Sh437,776,982 which differs from the certified amount by Sh52,095,299,” Mr Macharia Kamau, the then Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, told Parliament.

"This difference relates to the AUC campaigns conducted by the Deputy President and were initially charged under the AUC campaign funds, but were later transferred to State Visits expenditure," he added.

Ms Mohamed lost her bid to be the continent’s top diplomat to her Chad counterpart, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in the vote.

Last week, Mr Odinga’s campaign team said the former premier had set his sights on West African Nations with a focus on the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the entire Francophone nations, in a bid to get a share of the votes.

Mr Odinga held bilateral talks with Nigeria President Bola Ahmed Tinubu - chairman of the Ecowas Authority of Heads of States and Government, in South Africa with a view to penetrating the organisation to win its support.

While in South Africa for the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mr Odinga also held talks with other key Heads of State including Denis Sassou Nguesso (Congo Brazzaville), Felix Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo), Samia Suluhu (Tanzania), Bola Tinubu (Nigeria), and Joao Laurenco (Angola).

Mr Odinga had also secured support from Malawi and Zambia, the two members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

President Ruto also recently secured crucial support from the North after Algeria pledged to back the former Premier.

While attending the 50th G7 Summit in Apulia, Italy, the Head of State secured the support of the Northern African country, during a meeting with Algeria President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Mr Mudavadi had announced early this month that the government was working on a secretariat to spearhead the ODM leader’s campaigns.

“Overall, the campaigns are led by the State with highly experienced and knowledgeable officers. The State Department for Foreign Affairs has established a campaign Secretariat which includes the candidate’s strategy team,” Mr Mudavadi said.

The secretariat, he noted, will prepare all the briefs for use by the candidate, develop campaign materials including digital presence, and prepare for the public debate to be broadcast to African citizens.

“This will take place six months before the election date,” Mr Mudavadi said.

He said that an empirical campaign strategy has been developed which includes identifying opportunities, challenges, and risks that Kenya’s candidature faces.

“Additionally, the campaign involves outreach programmes to Capitals of AU member states, briefing of Kenya Missions abroad, and engagements with Diplomatic Corps in Nairobi.

“Kenya is certain that our candidate, Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, has credentials and the passion to advocate for Africa’s interests globally, and champion for more opportunities for Africa and her people.”

Mr Odinga previously served as AU’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development.