Ruto pitches for Raila's bid at EA meeting

President William Ruto arrives for the opening of the 3rd sitting of the 3rd session of EALA. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga's bid for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson received a major boost after the East Africa Community (EAC) resolved to front one candidate for the post.

This revelation was made Tuesday by President William Ruto during the opening of the 3rd sitting of the 3rd session of the fifth East African Legislative Assembly (Eala). He revealed that there have been consultations between EAC Heads of State to nominate one candidate who will succeed outgoing AUC chairperson Moussa Faki.

“The chair of the AU is becoming vacant next year as the term of Moussa Faki, our current chair, comes to an end. It is going to be the turn for East Africa to provide the chair for the African Union,” said Ruto.

“We have consulted as Heads of State from the East Africa Community and we have agreed to sponsor one candidate as East Africans because that is the strength of our community; that we can do things together. It speaks to the spirit of leadership that is being provided by our region,” he added.

EAC member states are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

The President said that it was East Africa’s turn at the helm of the continental body and called on EALA to put aside their political affiliations and work together to champion the interests of the region.

The decision to field a single candidate not only bolsters the region’s bid to clinch the continent's top seat but also gives impetus to the bid by Kenya’s opposition leader.

Raila is seen as a favourite after he was publicly endorsed by President Ruto and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni a week ago.

The news was delivered to Kenyans via the ‘X’ platform.

"I am very grateful to President Museveni for strongly endorsing my candidacy and to President Ruto for fully backing it…Several days ago, I accepted an invitation from President Museveni of Uganda for a joint meeting with President Ruto…Crucially, at the urging of President Museveni, we also discussed my candidacy for Chairperson of the African Union Commission,” Raila posted on X.

This was also confirmed by President Museveni who wrote, "I was happy to meet President Ruto and Rt. Hon. Odinga at my farm in Kisozi this afternoon. We discussed issues of mutual interest between our two countries. I welcome them.”

In his speech Tuesday, President Ruto challenged EAC to work together to address the shared challenges to trade and investment in the region such as persistent non-tariff barriers, distracting and costly trade disputes, conflicting tax regimes, weak enforcement and inadequate resources.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga.  [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

He said that it was important for Eala to lay a strong foundation for East Africa to make a transformative contribution to Pan-African integration and the emergence of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) as the next hub of global investment, trade and industry.

“We must provide a strong framework for achieving rapid leap-frogging and the development of sustainable competitive advantage in emerging hi-tech fields like the digital economy in general, and artificial intelligence, automation, robotics and machine learning, in order to stay ahead of both threats and opportunities that will continue to unfold in a rapidly digitizing global economy,” he said.

The Head of State regretted that the resource constraint continues to hamper East Africa’s progress, and called upon the Assembly to seek out opportunities through which it can complement national and regional efforts to mobilise and allocate more resources to the regional integration agenda.

At the same time, President Ruto announced that Kenya will host this year’s World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA) Summit, in Nairobi on April 29, 2024.

He noted that the summit aims to highlight to donors and other development partners critical priority target areas of development financing in Africa, make the case for a significantly higher level of financing in the IDA21 cycle and support African countries to effectively address development challenges and exploit opportunities.

 “At this event, African leaders will articulate a strong case for an ambitious and robust 21st replenishment of the IDA, which is the largest source of development assistance, and donor funding for basic social services for the world's 75 low-income countries, to support economic transformation in Africa and throughout the Global south,” he  said.

And while revealing that he had invited Heads of States from the region, Ruto disclosed that the last IDA Replenishment in 2021 raised USD 91 billion, which was disbursed to eligible beneficiary countries over a period of 3 years.

“…East Africa will therefore have the opportunity to witness from close quarters and contribute to important deliberations with critical implications for our growth and development,” he said.