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The Kenya Forum | Sleepless Nights for Raila Odinga in Race to become AU Chairperson - The Kenya Forum

April 16, 2024

Summary

The danger for Raila Odinga is that in wanting to hold both positions, AU Chair and opposition leader in Kenya, he stands the very real chance of losing both.

More by Martin Minns

Sleepless Nights for Raila Odinga in Race to become AU Chairperson

Sleepless Nights for Raila Odinga in Race to become AU Chairperson

Multi-lingual Mahmoud Ali Youssouf

Djibouti’s entry into the race for the chairmanship of the African Union in the person of its former foreign minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf has put the cat amongst the pigeons a month before the campaign is officially due to commence ahead of the election in February 2025. It has also given Kenya’s nominee, opposition leader Raila Odinga, considerable cause for concern.

59-year-old Youssouf is a force to be reckoned with. Djibouti’s Foreign Minister in the 1990’s, he has great experience as a diplomat not least among continental organsations, especially when it comes to conflict resolution. A multilingual expert – he speaks fluent French, English and Arabic – Youssouf’s candidature will appeal to many.

Tactically the vote could now be split between Youssouf, Odinga and the third nominee, Somalia’s former Foreign Minister Fawzia Adam, who is a formidable candidate in her own right.

Regional unity unlikely

Time was when regional leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, would coalesce around one candidate. Unanimity is now looking far less likely in this election for the AU Chairman slot.

Raila Odinga’s headaches

Of the three candidates Raila Odinga faces the biggest headaches.

When Odinga’s name was first mooted in terms of standing for the AU Chairperson, many of his supporters seemed to think his elevation to the post was all but a foregone conclusion but that wasn’t so then and it is even less so now.

Odinga faces several dilemmas. His candidature started the race for the AU chairmanship but it also fired the starting gun back home in Kenya as to who will succeed him as the leader of the opposition. It is a race once started that Odinga will have difficulty stopping.

Mr Odinga seemed at one point to want to have his cake and eat it too by becoming AU Chairman and remain de facto leader of Kenya’s major opposition grouping. This he cannot do if he takes up AU top job.

The danger for Raila Odinga is that in wanting to hold both positions, AU Chair and opposition leader in Kenya, he stands the very real chance of losing both.

Mahmoud Ali Youssouf’s entry into the race for AU Chairman will give Raila Odinga some sleepless nights.

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