Raila Odinga has what it takes to drive Africa forward

ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga addressing Pamoja African Alliance(PAA) Party members who defected to ODM at Chungwa House in Nairobi on January on 18, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The declaration by Opposition leader Raila Odinga that he will go for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission has excited many Kenyans across the political divide.

However, the reactions are largely political and not what Raila can do, if he gets the job, to enable Kenya and Africa realise their aspirations.

Those rooting for Raila such as former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo have noted that he has long been committed to Pan-Africanism and actively engaged at the top level of Africa political affairs. 

His Azimio coalition, while endorsing his candidature, held that as the AU Chairperson, he will leverage his Pan-Africanism vision of identity and inclusivity, to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.

The AU plays a major role in the continent’s affairs. As the successor of the largely moribund Organisation of African Unity (OAU), it was tasked to drive political coordination and economic integration.

This has seen it over the years focus on consolidating democratic institutions and culture, promoting and protecting human rights including the rights of women, promoting peace, security and economic development, encouraging participation of civil society and ensuring good governance and the rule of law.

It has also continued to “expand its policy agenda, which includes infrastructure development, continental trade, food security, agricultural transformation, gender equality, democracy and good governance, election monitoring, and crisis management.”

The AU also deliberates and defends African positions on global issues, such as climate change and development financing. This is no doubt a wide-ranging mandate but which the African Union Commission has not fulfilled due to many obstacles such as underfunding, reluctance by member countries to create a powerful AUC for fear of surrendering their sovereignty and lack of a strong secretariat.

This has made it unable to promote democracy on the continent and resolve conflicts such as the ones in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and insurgencies in Nigeria, Sahel region and northern Mozambique. It has also been a bystander as men in uniform to take power in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. This has continued to despite the AU’s commitment to “silence the guns” by 2020. Current AUC Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has done his best to drive the continental body’s agenda and is among the first to point out its weaknesses.

However, it may need someone in the ilk of Raila with his strong will, commitment and networking skills to take the continent forward especially in its quest to realise Agenda 2063, which is the blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into a global powerhouse.