Raila bows out of Africa Union job eight months shy of contract

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga at People's Baraza in Keroka Nyamira County. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

The tenure of opposition leader Raila Odinga as African Union's High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa came to an abrupt end yesterday, eight months shy of his contract.

Raila's exit as envoy eight months before the end of his term was first communicated by AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki in a letter dated February 19, addressed to Raila.

"Your role in this journey has been invaluable. Allow me to express my profound gratitude for accepting to serve in this role during the transition period, which has now come to a happy conclusion," the letter said.

He added: "The African Union hopes to continue counting on your support for other possible assignments."

However, Raila explained he had asked to exit as African Union High Representative for Infrastructure and Development role, citing availability challenges.

In a circular dated February 23 and addressed to Faki, Raila said he had notified the AUC of his intention to be freed of the role to pursue more urgent matters.

"During our meeting on the sidelines of the second Dakar African Infrastructure Financing Summit in Dakar, Senegal about three weeks ago, I indicated the challenges to my continued availability for the role of AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

"In that regard. I welcome your quick action that will free me to pursue other pressing and urgent matters," Odinga wrote.

Raila challenged the continent's leadership to have Africa's best interests at heart.

"I am proud to have made a contribution to the transformation of the NEPAD Agency to the African Union Development Agency, among other contributions during my tenure.

"Many challenges remain, including the inaction by the continent's leadership and vested interests outside the continent that are only too keen to keep Africa in its present condition. Hopefully, the continent will overcome these," he said.

Raila's appointment as African Union Special Envoy in October 2018 elevated him to a continental statesman whose time was divided between local politics and policy issues across Africa.

While being appointed, Raila was tasked to mobilise political support and development assistance from member states and regional economic communities.

By his appointment, he joined the league of former presidents and senior leaders on the continent, placing him near the climax of his pursuit as a Pan-Africanist.

At the time, Faki acknowledged Raila's "rich political experience and a strong commitment to ideals of Pan-Africanism and African integration, as well as a deep knowledge of infrastructure development.

"In this respect, his mandate includes mobilising further political support from member states and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

As a special envoy of the AU chairperson, Raila had an office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but frequently travelled across the continent.

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