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Raila to know AU bid fate as Executive Council makes decision today


President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at his Kisozi country home in Uganda where they also discussed candidacy of Kenya's former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the AU Commission chairmanship. [PSCU]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga will today know the fate of his bid to be the next African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson.

The AUC’s Executive Council will meet at 10 am to consider election proposals that have kept Raila’s chances to succeed outgoing chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat on the balance.

“The 22nd Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council will consider the draft report on the preparation for the election of senior leadership of the African Union Commission in February 2025,” a press invite of the meeting reads in part.

The draft in question proposes that the next AUC chairperson be a woman, a decision that, if adopted, locks out the former prime minister.

But the Standard has established that Raila could clear this hurdle, with a meeting of the Permanents Representatives Committee (PRC) agreeing to shelve the gender proposal, freeing member parties to nominate candidates of either gender.

The recommendation is among others that will feature in the Executive Council’s draft decision. Another key win for Raila is a proposal to have the chairperson position reserved for an Eastern African state, with the region due for the rotational role. The Northern Africa region will nominate candidates for deputy chairperson, with the others filling the six commissioner positions.

If adopted, the said proposal would narrow down the race within the region, amid assurances by President William Ruto that it is solidly behind Raila. Raila’s other notable opponent is Somalia's former Foreign Affairs Minister, Fawzia Yusuf Adam, who also hails from Eastern Africa.

The PRC, which comprises permanent representatives of the union, is in charge of the day-to-day business of the AU on behalf of the Assembly and the Executive Council. Among its core functions is preparing Executive Council meetings, including agenda and draft decisions.

A stumbling block could be a bid to lock out countries whose members have held AUC leadership roles.

"Any member state that occupied a position from that region should be ineligible for future elections until all member states of the region served as members of the senior leadership of the commission," reads the proposal.

Kenya previously produced a former deputy AUC chair, Erastus Mwencha, who served between 2008 and 2017. Moussa Faki Mahamat's current deputy, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, is from Rwanda, which would lock out the two nations.

The influential council, which comprises foreign ministers, will make its decision on all the subjects through consensus or a two-thirds majority vote, with its decision presented to the Assembly. Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who doubles as the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, yesterday flew out to Addis Ababa to attend the meeting.

The new developments follow intense lobbying by the former premier and President Ruto, aimed at removing hurdles that have lined up Raila’s path.

His ‘victories’ come in the wake of meetings with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in their respective countries. Raila said that Museveni had promised to back his bid, even as he said he and Kagame were “committed to African unity and solidarity”.

He previously held talks with several African leaders when he attended the funeral of former Namibia President Hage Geingob.

On Saturday, the opposition leader flew out to Addis Ababa to lobby for his AUC candidacy. A connected politician, Raila has many friends  around the continent who could help tilt the race in his favour. Testament to his influence, former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed Raila’s ambitions, terming him the most suitable person to steer the continental body.

Ruto has been equally committed to Raila’s success, rallying neighbour states behind his bid, assuring as recently as last Friday that the region would back him.

"We are pushing the candidature of the former prime minister... I have consulted with the leaders within our region and we have agreed to support the candidature of the honourable Raila Odinga and it is because he is Kenyan and we believe he has the stature and wherewithal to handle the affairs of that office," Ruto said.

The government has embarked on an all-out campaign to be funded by the taxpayer. Mudavadi is leading the charm offensive that also includes senior officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

And the 79-year-old seems to have gained support across the political divide, with many Kenya Kwanza, and Azimio lawmakers alike, lining up to endorse his candidacy for a role that could retire him from local politics.

If elected, or selected through consensus, as the AUC rules allow, Raila will be eligible for a four-year term that is renewable once, meaning he could be out of local circulation for eight years, potentially sitting out the 2027 presidential race.

Ambitious politicians within the opposition Azimio coalition have sensed a prospective vacuum with Raila’s imminent exit. Many within Azimio and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) have urged him to plan his succession, prompting wrangles that have played out in public.

Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka is trying  to establish himself as Raila’s heir, declaring that he would continue challenging the government’s policies, a job he joked Raila could no longer do as he depended on the State’s support for his AUC bid.

Within ODM, former governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Hassan Joho (Mombasa) are fighting to secure ODM’s leadership and are facing competition from others such as National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi and Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna.

Such wars have seeped through to Raila’s Nyanza backyard, where Wandayi is facing competition from politicians, such as Governor Gladys Wanga and lawmakers Babu Owino (Embakasi East) and John Mbadi (Nominated), for the region's control.

Amid such agitation, the opposition veteran has insisted that he would be available to “advise” ODM, a tough job given the AUC chairperson role demands its holder to be non-partisan.

The AUC chairperson is the AU’s chief executive officer and legal representative, as well as the commission’s chief accounting officer.

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