Veteran trade unionist Francis Atwoli has now backed Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi’s 2022 presidential bid, in what signals a significant change in relations between the two since last year.
Speaking at the funeral of Lugari MP Ayub Savula’s daughter, Mr Atwoli first dismissed Deputy President William Ruto’s forays into the Western region before declaring Mr Mudavadi the Luhya spokesman, a controversial tag that often breeds squabbles between the community’s sub-tribes.
Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and has for many years attempted to unify the several Luhya sub-tribes under one leader for political purposes.
“I today remind Mr Mudavadi that he is the Luhya kingpin and he should come out to command the community,” said Mr Atwoli, claiming that Mr Mudavadi has given too much space to up-and-coming political rivals who now think they have the community under their control.
Speaking at Manyonyi village in Lugari during the burial of Ms Joan Chepchirchir, Mr Atwoli, who has declared himself the community’s elder, said he was lobbying support for Mr Mudavadi from other leaders.
“I have reached out to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who commands Central region, Mr Hassan Joho who has taken charge of Coast region and Mr Raila Odinga who commands Nyanza, among other senior politicians to support Mr Mudavadi in 2022,” said Mr Atwoli.
Mr Atwoli, who endorsed Mr Mudavadi as the Luhya community spokesperson in 2016 at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega Town, asked him to remain aggressive, take charge of the community and lead it to the presidency in 2022.
Just last year, Mr Atwoli publicly criticised Mr Mudavadi, then a member of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), for skipping the “swearing-in” ceremony of the Orange Democratic Movement leader Odinga as the “People’s President”. The two would later reconcile at another funeral, where Mr Atwoli said he had forgiven the ANC leader.
On Saturday, the outspoken trade unionist further dismissed Deputy President William Ruto’s chances of succeeding President Kenyatta in 2022.
He said Dr Ruto was not the best candidate to become the fifth president after Mr Kenyatta, claiming the DP and his allies lack respect for elders.
“They are only concerned with their welfare and don’t value the lives of other Kenyans,” he said.
Mr Atwoli also campaigned for public support to amend the Constitution to reduce what he termed “toxic style” of politics pegged on ethnicity.
Calls for constitutional change dominated the burial, with Mr Mudavadi saying Nasa coalition’s political agreement stipulated that the law would be amended.
“Leadership of the four political parties in the pact signed this agreement and it remained just a matter of time before we amend the Constitution. We, therefore, need to re-look the Constitution,” said Mr Mudavadi.
But the ANC leader wants the electoral commission streamlined before the Constitution is reviewed.
“We cannot allow the current IEBC [Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission], which messed up the country in 2017 to handle any other election. We must change the referee to have peaceful elections,” Mr Mudavadi said.But Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya asked Mr Mudavadi to quit the presidential race, claiming he had failed the Luhya community in past elections when they had confidence in him.
“I will not relent in my quest for the presidency just because Mr Mudavadi is in the race,” said Mr Oparanya.
Mr Savula said his daughter developed chest pains and was rushed to Nairobi Hospital where she was diagnosed with acute pneumonia.
“We were holding a get-together party at our home in Nairobi when she said she was not feeling well. She went to hospital and was treated,” said Mr Savula. He said he learnt of her death while attending the Maragoli Cultural Festival in Vihiga County on December 26 last year.
He added: “Mr Mudavadi and Mr Atwoli stood with me and l used the plane which had brought Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe to travel to Nairobi, from where I headed to the morgue”.
During the funeral, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s condolence message was read by Western Region Commissioner Ann Ng’etich.
Mr Savula expressed appreciation for donations from President Kenyatta (Sh1.5 million), Mr Atwoli (Sh1 million) and many other leaders, friends and the public for the burial.
By Daily Nation