Raila Odinga: President Ruto asked Faki to sack me as AU envoy

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga during an interview with KTN News at his Karen home in Nairobi on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Raila Odinga claimed on Tuesday night that President William Ruto had asked the chairperson of African Union Commission Moussa Faki to sack him as the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development.

Speaking on KTN News, the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader said President Ruto made the request when he attended the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 17.

On February 23, Faki announced that Odinga’s tenure as AU’s special envoy had ended after nearly five years.

Odinga would, a few hours later, say that he had asked to be excused from his role as AU’s High Representative for Infrastructure, citing pressing national needs.

Odinga said he notified Faki about his intention to vacate the office earlier than February 23, when the letter of the discontinuation of his role was shared to the public.

“During our meeting on the sidelines of the second Dakar African Infrastructure Financing Summit in Dakar, Senegal about three weeks ago, I indicated the challenges to my continued availability for the role of AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa. In that regard, I welcome AU’s quick action that will free me to pursue other pressing and urgent matters,” he said in a press statement on February 23.

There was speculation that his contract was terminated prematurely.

“I did not lose the AU job. I had already indicated to Mr Faki that I was going to request to be relieved of the position because I had done my best, but there was demand for my time back home,” Odinga said on KTN News on Tuesday, February 28.

The Azimio leader also addressed reports that President Ruto instigated his removal.

“They have said that when President Ruto went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia [on February 17], he had a meeting with Mr Faki, and asked him to remove me from the role… that is not in doubt, but Faki told him I had, myself, requested to be relieved of my duties,” said Odinga.

The former Prime Minister said he “doesn’t know” if Faki would have heeded the president’s request, were it not for his (Odinga’s) already-submitted request to vacate office.

 “I don’t know if Faki would have agreed [to sack me as requested by President Ruto],” said Odinga.

Odinga said it was a coincidence that changes at the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) were happening at a time when he had shown interest to exit.

“What was happening is that AU had NEPAD as an organisation that was created for implementation of projects in Africa. It was now being converted to African Union Development Agency, now called AUDA-NEPAD, with plans to get rid of NEPAD eventually,” he said.

Reacting to Odinga’s exit from AU job, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said on February 24 in Mombasa that “perennial demonstrations had cost the Azimio leader his job”.

“These incessant protests have really cost the old man. He had a big job at African Union, but he left the job behind and returned to Kenya to demonstrate. He’s now been sent packing by AU. Isn’t that a major loss on his side?” Gachagua posed during the launch of Taifa Gas plant in Dongo Kundu.

“He has been demonstrating for more than 20 years, and each year, he loses big time. AU told him that he wasn’t available when he was needed, and as a result, they had no choice but to relieve him of his duties,” added Gachagua.