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Raila faces delicate hurdles in journey to clinch AU top seat

 Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga received the NADCO Report at Capitol Hill Square on March 08, 2024. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Azimio Leader Raila Odinga is generally optimistic about his chances to bag the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson position.

But even he knows it will not be a walk in the park, as he admitted during a rally in Wajir on Thursday. The former prime minister has engaged in an aggressive campaign to woo countries to back his bid.

He was in Rwanda on Friday and held talks with President Paul Kagame over his candidacy as he seeks to have the East African region rally behind his candidacy.

“Had an insightful conversation with President Paul Kagame in Kigali, diving into regional and Pan-African ideals. We are committed to African unity and solidarity for shared prosperity and progress,” Raila posted on his social media handles.

Kagame concurred, saying they had “exchanged on various issues of regional and continental interest. Days earlier, Raila met Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni jointly with President William Ruto, securing Museveni’s support.

Dr Ruto has assured that East African nations will back Raila’s bid, which is, undoubtedly, a boost. But the opposition leader is facing hurdles in his path, the latest of which is a recommendation that the next AUC chairperson be a woman.

“To uphold the principle of rotational gender parity, it has been concluded that the next Chairperson of the Commission should be a female, while the next Deputy Chairperson should be a male,” a report to be tabled before the AUC Executive Council next week reads in part.

Raila’s bid is essentially pegged on whether or not the draft report is adopted and whether African heads will accept new laws that would bar Kenya from producing the next chair.

"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 a proposal that could be detrimental to Raila’s ambitions. Such weighty decisions are made by consensus.

If one-member state rejects a draft, it is kept aside until such a time all countries will be in agreement. This means Raila stands a chance of overcoming the hurdle presented in the draft proposal if only one country opposes it.

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 East Africa, due to secure the AUC chairmanship.

But if Raila surmounts his hurdles, he has competition awaiting him. Among those interested is Somalia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam.

Then there is the perennial rift between francophone and anglophone countries that essentially cost former Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed the job in 2017. The two language blocs make up two-thirds of the AU member states.

Raila is banking on his rich connections across the continent. Former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo flanked Raila as he unveiled his candidacy, and is among those who believe Raila is the most suitable person to succeed Faki.

He seems set to clear the hurdle of his academic and professional qualifications. The minimum academic qualification for the role is a Master’s degree in a wide range of academic fields, with a PhD being an added advantage.

Raila possesses a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, obtained in 1970. He also enjoys the government’s support, which plans to fund his campaigns led by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

“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 Friday as he received a report of the National Dialogue Committee at State House.

“This is not about political sides. This is about Kenya...When there are issues that concern Kenya as a nation, we must close ranks as communities, parties and sides, so that we can all move together,” he added.

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