Cotu boss earns another term, talks tough as he roots for BBI
By Kevine Omollo and Kepher Otieno | April 11th 2021
In the trade union circles, he is a fighter for the rights of workers while in his Mulembe backyard, he calls himself an elder and a kingmaker.
In the national political sphere, he is a fixer who claims to foretell the country’s leadership and governance direction.
He has mentioned in the Press a number of times that he is the third most powerful person in the country after President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
And on Friday, Francis Atwoli got another five-year term to lead the vibrant Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) as the secretary-general after he was re-elected unopposed.
This is a position he has held for the last 20 years, and he has reiterated that his continued stay is due to the confidence workers have in him.
The latest move puts him at the centre of 2022 politics which he has been vocal about, with utterances to the effect that he is privy to the upcoming political realignments.
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And on Friday when he took to the podium to give a speech after his re-election, he turned to politics and told Kenyan politicians opposed to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that the union firmly supported the process and would not allow some leaders to scuttle it.
He told Kenyans passionate about the much-hyped national unity to rally behind President Kenyatta and Raila to push for a new constitutional order.
“If we want Kenya to move forward, if we want Kenya to be peaceful, prosperous and cohesive, then we must uphold the proposals contained in the BBI,” said Atwoli.
Atwoli was all vibrant and energetic as he stamped his authority in the country’s trade union once again.
He roared in his usual way, a sign of assurance that he was still in charge, even as he lauded the unionists for his re-election held at the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu.
“I am happy for the confidence bestowed on me and I will not disappoint you,” he told the Cotu delegates.
Atwoli was elected unopposed after it emerged that his only would-be challenger, Kenya National Union of Nurses boss Seth Panyako, failed the qualification threshold to run for the seat.
Sources at Cotu told the Sunday Standard that the union’s board barred Panyako from contesting the seat because his members have not been contributing and submitting dues to Cotu.
He also had not applied to be a member of Cotu by the time the union went for elections, thus giving leeway for Atwoli and his entire executive board to be re-elected.
Earlier, speculations were rife that Panyako had dashed to court to block the elections. But Cotu delegates hurriedly held elections before anybody could challenge the poll.
As early as 6am, the delegates were gathered at Tom Mboya and seated, with large screens mounted strategically at every corner for virtual delegates to follow the elections and participate.
At exactly 9am, the delegates had voted, with Atwoli being re-elected unopposed alongside his deputy Ben Okwaro and two deputy assistants Ernest Nandome and Caro Ruto.
However, Panyako vowed to fight in court to have the election nullified and a fresh poll held.
According to him, the grounds for his disqualification were fictitious.
“Our members are contributing to Cotu through the various employers. Furthermore, there are more than 500 Cotu delegates and someone cannot purport that only 50 can make a decision on their behalf,” he said.
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