Ruto in shuttle diplomacy over Raila's AUC bid

President William Ruto and Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo hold talks at Jubilee House in Accra, Ghana. [PCS]

President William Ruto has been engaged in shuttle diplomacy in four African countries in the last one week to seek support for Azimio leader Raila Odinga's bid for the Africa Union Commission (AUC) Chairmanship.

Ruto secured the support of Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, Central Africa Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera, Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Equitorial Guinea Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue in his latest charm offensive

Kenya has in turn pledged to support Ghana Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Botchwey for the Commonwealth Secretary General position during heads of states summit to be held later this year.

President Ruto thanked Addo for pledging to support Kenya’s candidature for the AUC chairmanship which he said has been informed by its leading role in promoting Pan Africanism and engagement by key stakeholders across governments in the region which feel it is time for Kenya.

“I would like to thank the President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo for agreeing to support Kenya’s bid for the Africa Union Commission Chairmanship, Kenya will in turn support Ghana’s candidate for the position of Commonwealth Secretary General later this year,” he said.

The President also secured the support of Guinea-Bissau President for Raila’s bid during a trip to the Western African countries where the two heads of state held bilateral talks.

Ruto also met Mangue in Malabo where Equatorial Guinea committed to support Kenya's candidature of the AUC Chairmanship and open an embassy in Nairobi in efforts to boost diplomatic ties.

The Head of State met Touadera in Bangui on Saturday, where CAR and Kenya pledged to work together in the fight against terrorism and insecurity.

Early last month Ruto and Raila surprised friend and foe when they visited Uganda President Yoweri Museveni at his rural home which was a clear indicator that the two had made a political handshake even as they lobbied for the Azimio leader’s bid for AUC Chairmanship.

Ruto while opening the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) special sittings at Parliament chambers in Nairobi last month said that Heads of State from the East African Community had pledged to support Kenya’s candidate for the AUC Chairmanship.

“As you are aware it will be the turn of the East Africa Community to produce the next Chairperson of African Union with Mahamat Faki second term in office coming to an end, Kenya has already secured the support of member countries to have Raila Odinga elected as the next Chairperson,” said Ruto.

Raila has used his extensive network in Africa to campaign for the position having secured the support of Tanzania President Samia Suluhu, Uganda President Museveni, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

The former Prime Minister has also secured the support of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, and South Sudan President Salva Kiir and has intensified his trips across the continent to seek support.

Raila declared his bid for the AUC position at his Nairobi residence in the company of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“I am offering my services to the African Continent  as the Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission if the leadership of the continent needs me, I am a Pan Africanist who believes that this continent has a got a huge potential which if well utilized will make every African proud of his heritage,” he said.

UDA Strategic Communication Advisor Maliba Arnold said the fact that the President is reaching out to other heads of state to campaign for Raila clearly shows that he has risen above the Kenyan politics to ensure that the country clinches this strategic position.

Maliba explained that the President being one of the voters and is reaching out to other voters shows the highest level of honesty in pushing the Kenyan agenda at the continental level and victory for Raila will be a win for the country and also an achievement to the President politically.

He said that the President has displayed statesmanship and is not taking anything to chance to ensure that the Azimio leader is elected to that position early next year.

“The President is moving around the continent championing Kenya’s bid for the African Union Commission Chairmanship bearing in mind that by the time that the real voting will be held the matter will have been canvassed widely and a decision arrived at by Heads of state,” said Maliba.

Azimio Secretary for Political Affairs Fred Okango said that it will be a major political score for Ruto if Raila secures the AUC Chairmanship, having served as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development.

Okango observed that Raila understands what African needs and besides the President campaigning for him he is making use of his connections across the continent to catch the eyes of all heads of state to support his bid when the time for voting comes up in February next year.

“Ruto knows that the election of the African Union Communication Chairman will be done by his fellow Heads of State, that is why he is not leaving anything to chance as he seeks to project Raila as the best candidate for the position,” he said.