Raila’s bid for AU top job to bring him together with Ruto

Raila’s potential elevation to the prominent continental role could mend the fractured relationship between him and President Ruto
Raila's bid for AU top job to bring him together with Ruto

The aspiration of Raila Odinga, the leader of the Azimio coalition, to assume the position of the fifth Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) appears likely to bring him together with his longstanding political rival, President William Ruto.

According to political analyst Javas Bigambo, Raila’s potential elevation to the prominent continental role could mend the fractured relationship between him and President Ruto, who were once political allies but have since become adversaries.

In the fiercely contested presidential election of August 2022, Raila narrowly suffered defeat to President Ruto.

Despite the seasoned opposition leader’s allegations of electoral fraud, which he asserted even through an unsuccessful petition filed with the Supreme Court, judges upheld President Ruto’s victory.

For Raila to make a successful bid, he needs the support of President Ruto and his government. It is therefore inevitable that the 2 will have to work together which means that the two leaders will eventually get into some sort of a handshake,” Bigambo told this writer during an interview.

Raila announced his candidacy for the top position at the AU on 15 February, 2024, with the endorsement of former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, setting in motion Kenya’s campaign to lead the continental organization.

Bigambo stressed that President Ruto will likely play a prominent role as Raila’s chief campaigner across the continent, working to secure Kenya’s success in its bid for leadership of the AU.

This is inevitable because President Ruto will be keen to ensure that Kenya’s bis is successful,” he said.

Although Raila is not unfamiliar with AU circles, having served as the body’s High Representative for Infrastructure from 20 October, 2018, to February 23, 2023, Bigambo emphasized the critical importance of President Ruto’s government input.

2027 politics

With Raila soon to be out of the political succession race for 2027, Bigambo stated that President Ruto would be eager to advocate for him to ensure a smooth defense of his seat.

If Raila succeeds, he will officially take office in February 2025 for his 4 year term, by which time the Kenyan election would have concluded.

While some experts speculate that Raila might resign early from his AU position to focus on Kenyan local politics, Bigambo notes that the former Prime Minister’s political influence would be diminished once he assumes the AU role.

The requirements needed to be a successful candidate compromises Raila presently quite thoroughly. He will need to be politically neutral,” he said.

Bigambo noted that with Raila’s exit from the political stage imminent, President Ruto “will not have a very compelling opponent in the 2027 elections”.

The Azimio coalition has officially backed Raila’s candidacy for the AU’s top position, with co-principal and Wiper Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka affirming Raila as the ideal candidate for the role.

As the 2027 succession looms, sparking an anticipated power struggle within the opposition coalition, Kalonzo seems to be positioning himself as the viable contender to challenge President Ruto in the upcoming polls.

Nonetheless, Bigambo maintains that Kalonzo must demonstrate his capability to step into Raila’s shoes and present a formidable challenge to unseat President Ruto, who has previously downplayed the former Vice President’s candidacy as a minor obstacle.

It is not obvious and natural that Kalonzo Musyoka will inherit Raila’s political estate,” he said.


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