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Unite or Ruto will finish you, Atwoli tells Raila and One Kenya Alliance

POLITICS
By Oscar Obonyo | July 23rd 2021
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli during an interview at his Ildamat Home in Kajiado County on April 29, 2021 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Feuding National Super Alliance (NASA) leaders, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula, alongside Kanu leader Gideon Moi have been asked to swallow their pride and team up for next year’s polls or risk political oblivion.

In a private hard-hitting letter to the five seen by The Standard, Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli pleads with the ODM, Wiper, Amani National Congress (ANC), Ford-Kenya and Kanu party leaders “to come together and forget talking about being suspicious of one another, political mistrust, betrayals and false promises”.

“Offending pronouncements are always the order of politics and you cannot hold that as a grudge for you not to come together because all of you have gone through that before,” writes Atwoli in the letter dated July 20, 2021.

The appeal by Atwoli follows a series of public outbursts between Raila on one hand and Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetangula on the other over sharing of money from the political parties fund.    

The ANC leader has repeatedly accused Raila of political trickery while Kalonzo is on record stating he would be “the most stupid man” to support Raila’s presidential bid for a third time “without any demonstration of reciprocity”. 

 Atwoli’s letter was penned on Tuesday, the day One Kenya Alliance (OKA) leaders met and declared the death of NASA. But different sources confided to The Standard that the four failed to agree on the method of identifying the coalition's presidential flag bearer.

In his communication, the veteran unionist warns the leaders that their political life is hinged on a union against the DP.

And he cautions them that failure to stop a Ruto presidency will invite dreaded revenge from the DP: “If one of you would have not taken over the political leadership of this country, then the coming five years will witness all of you being fought over fiercely and your influence reduced to nothing because you are all men of very strong influence in our country and for whoever will be in power to survive, you will remain their targets”.

According to Atwoli, what brings people together in politics is protection of one’s image, relevance and in this instance the personal interests of the five political bigwigs which is now according to him “at stake more than ever before”.

Atwoli has over the last four years been actively involved in succession politics including predicting that “Ruto will be absent from the presidential ballot”. 

Yesterday, Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said he was “unaware of such a letter”, while efforts to get ODM and Kanu secretary generals Edwin Sifuna and Nick Salat were fruitless.

Confirming receipt of the letter, Wetang'ula thanked Atwoli for his bid to unite the leaders but challenged the COTU boss to demonstrate fairness and objectivity. “If Atwoli wants to precipitate a meeting amongst us, he is most welcome. However, he has openly and over and over again shown a bias in favour of one of us. The success of his mission will depend on his neutrality which is currently missing.”

Mudavadi's spokesman, Kibisu Kabatesi, observed that Atwoli’s letter insinuated pride presumably on the part of those it is addressed to, yet the assertion is not elaborated “except for a condescending and patronising attitude of the author”.

“We are for instance not aware of any animosity between the addressees to warrant a unity call. Majority of us are working together and are avowed to resolve issues with honesty, truth and trust,” he said.

Musalia and Wetang'ula are in agreement that the unity offer “is not coming from a fair and impartial arbiter”. The letter writer, they argue, has pronounced himself severally and publicly in favour of one of the recipients – Raila.

The Ford-Kenya boss wondered why Atwoli was proceeding with the assumption of disunity, yet four of them have teamed up already.

“If he wants to be a link between OKA and any other person and parties, then he must come straight to us and once he gains acceptability and proves his neutrality, he can proceed to call for this proposed meeting,” Wetang'ula said.

However, Atwoli maintained he “comes from a free and independent labour movement” and that nobody had asked him to write to letter: “This is my serious proposal to you all after looking at all the options you may have, as an elder”.

Atwoli is close to Raila, Musalia and Gideon. He occasionally meets Raila either at his home in Kajiado County or in tours at the coast.

Atwoli sponsored an event in December 2016 at Bukhungu Stadium to crown Mudavadi spokesman of the luhya community. Gideon on the other hand is leader of Atwoli’s Kanu party, whose leadership he has supported since independence.

The entry of Atwoli in NASA and OKA politics is against a backdrop of behind-the-scenes efforts to unite the opposition by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

The move is geared at isolating Ruto who has kicked off a blistering campaign and repeatedly poured cold water on the possible union of the five against him. 

On July 11 while addressing a church in Huruma, Nairobi, the DP hit out at Raila and OKA leaders. “They started by bothering him with constitutional amendments but when it hit a dead end, now they want him to arrange them for elections. The president was elected to serve all Kenyans not five, six people,” Ruto said.

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