Inside Politics

Raila unveils team to head AU job quest

Thursday, June 6th, 2024 04:09 | By
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi on Wednesday June 5, 2024. PHOTO/ @MusaliaMudavadi/X.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi on Wednesday June 5, 2024. PHOTO/ @MusaliaMudavadi/X.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has stepped up his bid for the African Union Commission chairmanship by setting up a secretariat to spearhead his candidacy.

People Daily has established that the former premier has picked, among others, former long-serving Kenyan ambassador to the United States Elkanah Odembo and US-based law professor Makau Mutua to help him clinch the job in the February 2025 polls.

At a press conference in Nairobi yesterday with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Odinga said he was ready to battle it out with his opponents in the race for the coveted seat.

Government endorsement

Odinga’s team, which also includes former Nyeri deputy governor Caroline Karugu, and former ambassadors Anthony Okara and Mahboub Maalim, will work alongside government-appointed lieutenants from the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs to push his planned agenda for Africa ahead of the February polls.

“I am vying for a position in Africa, not in the government or the Republic of Kenya, but I need the endorsement of the government of Kenya for that Africa position,” Odinga said after meeting with Mudavadi at the minister’s office at the Kenya Railways headquarters in Nairobi.

“We have exchanged notes on the state of the quest so far, the preparations from my side and the government’s side and the next steps.”

He said he had assured the government team that on his own, he was “making every effort, tapping into my experience, relationships and understanding of the continent to win the support of as many nations as I can.”

He said he was encouraged by the number of senior government officials offering to be part of the journey out of an understanding that the quest is for Kenya to win and not a partisan political issue.

Level of preparation

While appreciating the offer of support, the opposition leader added that he had shared with the government team the situation and his level of preparation from outside the government, adding that with committed and proper coordination between his team and the government, they should be able to clinch the seat.

“We agreed that coordination and synergy are going to be critical as we embark on the next critical steps that include the submission of an application,” he said.

“We have also agreed on the need for efficiency, the need to cut bureaucracy and unveil a well-oiled and flexible joint effort going forward.”

Aware that clinching the seat is a herculean task, Odinga was categorical that like all campaigns, plans emerge and change suddenly, explaining that the teams need to respond to demands as suddenly as they emerge.

He said it was important to understand the sensitivities in his quest for the AU post that include national, regional, continental and global dimensions, adding that it was crucial to always act responsibly, bearing these sensitivities in mind.

Mudavadi, for his part, hailed Odinga as a Pan-Africanist who sees the AU as a people-centred organisation.

“We have a visionary leader to fire up the African Union to greater levels. Odinga is a Pan-Africanist who naturally espouses the ‘Think Africa above all’ guiding principle of the AU Commission,” Mudavadi said.

Odinga’s experience and leadership philosophy, he aid, align with the AU Commission’s values of efficiency, professionalism and respect for diversity.

“We have no doubt the candidate will pursue excellence in line with the continent’s collective aspirations of ‘The Africa We Want in 2063’ as framed in the AU’s development framework of Agenda 2063,” he said.

National interests

Mudavadi said President William Ruto had energised Kenya’s foreign policy and positioned Kenya as a champion of African affairs in the international arena.

He added that as foreign affairs Cabinet Secretary, he will continue to amplify the President’s diplomacy by engaging his counterparts across the continent.

“We do all these for the good of our people, Kenya’s national interests and the prosperity of our continent,” he said.

Based on the principle of regional rotation, the said, this is the time for eastern Africa to nominate a candidate for the position of AU Commission chairperson.

The deadline for submitting regional nominations to the AU Commission is August 6.

According to Mudavadi, the campaigns are led by the State with highly experienced and knowledgeable officers, adding that the State Department for Foreign Affairs has established a campaign secretariat that includes the candidate’s strategy team.

Planned debate

The secretariat will prepare the briefs for use by Odinga, develop campaign materials, including a digital presence, and prepare for a public debate to be broadcast live in Africa at an event that will take place six months before the election date.

The team is firming up preparatory and application documents together with the required translations of Odinga’s CV into six AU languages - French, English, Kiswahili, Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish - ahead of submission to the AU Secretariat by the end of June.

Mudavadi also disclosed that a campaign strategy has been developed that includes identifying opportunities, challenges, and risks that Odinga’s candidacy faces.

More on Inside Politics