Raila inches closer to AU top job as African ministers drop gender proposal

By Mwangi Maina | 15 Mar 2024

Odinga, known for his vast political acumen and diplomatic experience, remains optimistic about his chances.

Raila Odinga's bid to chair the African Union Commission (AUC) received a significant boost on Friday as African Foreign Ministers dismissed the "rotational gender" requirement.

This implies that Raila's candidacy remains on track unless he is disqualified during the vetting process.



The 55 foreign ministers convened in Addis Ababa for a closed-door extraordinary session since Friday morning to review and consider the report on the AUC senior leadership election preparations.

The gender proposal, recommended by the AU legal counsel, suggested that the next chairperson should be a woman, with a man serving as deputy, but the AU Permanent Representatives Committee rejected the recommendation. This would have disqualified Odinga and any other male candidate if it went through.

This development clears the way for Odinga's bid for the AUC chairmanship, as it ensures a fair and open competition for all candidates, regardless of gender.

The Executive Council, a club of all 55 African foreign ministers, also specified that the Eastern and Northern regions can nominate both female and male candidates for the positions mentioned.

Orange Democratic Party Leader Raila Odinga.


In a statement on Friday, Prime Cabinet Secretary and Foreign and Diaspora Affairs CS Musalia Mudavadi said the Council unanimously adopted the critical decision that it is the turn of the Eastern Africa region to submit candidates for the position of Chairperson of the AUC.

“It is now clear that Raila Odinga will be in the race for the AU Commission Chairperson,” he said. “Effectively,  there are no more technical or legal hurdles preventing Kenya from submitting its candidate,” he said.

The council argued that the rotational gender parity principle for the chairperson and deputy chairperson roles, as outlined in the report, does not align with relevant AU legal instruments.

The Eastern African region was approved as the sole region that is eligible for the chairperson position, while the Northern region will battle for the deputy chairperson position.

Only Kenya and Somalia have so far declared candidates in the East African region.

In the African Union context, Eastern Africa comprises more than just the East African Community (EAC). The broader Eastern region includes over 10 countries, among them Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

Additionally, some EAC member states like Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are not part of the Eastern African region but instead fall under the Central region.

Spirited Odinga

Odinga, known for his vast political acumen and diplomatic experience, remains optimistic about his chances as he continues his aggressive campaign to secure support from across the continent.

He served for five years as the African Union's High Representative for Infrastructure in Africa Development, a largely ceremonial role.

He had been fronted by former Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta, with whom he had made peace in 2018 after post-poll chaos.

With current chairperson Moussa Faki's term coming to an end, a new chairperson will be elected next February.

An AU Commission chairperson serves for a four-year term, renewable once.

For Odinga to compete, Nairobi must formally submit his application, and then shortlisting will be done. This will then be listed as an agenda of continental leaders during the next summit.

Although Odinga is banking on his rich continental connections, electing an AUC chairperson is a tricky affair.

But President William Ruto's assurance of East African nations backing Odinga's bid is a boost.

However, it is not clear when this decision was reached, especially considering Mogadishu has already fronted a candidate.

Divisions in the region

Ruto's remarks highlight the persistent struggle to achieve consensus in the Eastern African region, which rarely agrees on major decisions.

At the February summit in Addis Ababa, member states vied for the AU Peace and Security Council positions, with East Africa having only two vacancies for a two-year term. Tanzania and Uganda sought a return to the council.

Eritrea, desiring greater representation within continental organs, initially expressed interest but eventually withdrew due to the sway held by Tanzania and Uganda, bolstered by their active involvement in peacekeeping efforts.

This division within the region poses a huge obstacle to Odinga's candidacy, as achieving consensus at the centre of such discord may prove challenging.

Continental priorities for the next AUC chairperson and the AUC as a whole include the implementation of the AU institutional reforms.

President Ruto is currently the continental champion of these reforms, and this may give Odinga an upper hand.

Peace and security continue to pose significant challenges to the continent.

Conflicts and violent extremism persist in South Sudan, Sudan, Libya, Mali and the Sahel, with conditions oscillating between periods of deterioration and partial improvement and lasting resolutions remaining elusive.

Addressing the challenge of silencing guns will be a top priority for the next AU Commission chairperson.

Reader comments

Recent Stories

NTSA cites mental health as a leading cause of road accidents

NTSA cites mental health as a leading cause of road accidents

2 minutes ago
SRC says no salary increases for civil servants to lower wage bill

SRC says no salary increases for civil servants to lower wage bill

56 minutes ago
Women and girls continue suffering one year into the Sudan war

Women and girls continue suffering one year into the Sudan war

1 hour ago
Relief as Kenya Power reduces token prices by 13.7 per cent

Relief as Kenya Power reduces token prices by 13.7 per cent

1 hour ago
Kenya seeks to be Africa’s digital leader with continental summit

Kenya seeks to be Africa’s digital leader with continental summit

1 hour ago
Kwale residents urged to legalise marriages to benefit from gov’t programmes

Kwale residents urged to legalise marriages to benefit from gov’t programmes

2 hours ago
Buffalo attack claims life in Taita Taveta

Buffalo attack claims life in Taita Taveta

3 hours ago
Kenya contemplates renegotiating electricty deal amid Ethiopia's power shortage

Kenya contemplates renegotiating electricty deal amid Ethiopia's power shortage

3 hours ago
62-year-old woman transforms young mothers lives through child spacing

62-year-old woman transforms young mothers lives through child spacing

4 hours ago
Kenya accused of hypocrisy over response to Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel

Kenya accused of hypocrisy over response to Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel

5 hours ago
Machogu put to task by MPs over lapse of Edu-Afya medical scheme

Machogu put to task by MPs over lapse of Edu-Afya medical scheme

5 hours ago
Two suspected criminals behind Nakuru robberies shot dead, firearm recovered

Two suspected criminals behind Nakuru robberies shot dead, firearm recovered

6 hours ago
Inside City Hall's proposal to revise zoning regulations to raise building height limits

Inside City Hall's proposal to revise zoning regulations to raise building height limits

6 hours ago
More Than Just a Kit: The design process of Kenya’s Olympics’ athletics kit

More Than Just a Kit: The design process of Kenya’s Olympics’ athletics kit

7 hours ago
167 illegal bars shut down in Mombasa, bhang worth Sh10m recovered

167 illegal bars shut down in Mombasa, bhang worth Sh10m recovered

7 hours ago
UN calls for end to any action that leads to military confrontations in Middle East

UN calls for end to any action that leads to military confrontations in Middle East

8 hours ago
Tana River leaders demand accountability after Sh1.82bn graft revelations in county expenditure

Tana River leaders demand accountability after Sh1.82bn graft revelations in county expenditure

8 hours ago
Wajir, Garissa among 17 counties targeted by State for Huduma Mashinani services in April

Wajir, Garissa among 17 counties targeted by State for Huduma Mashinani services in April

9 hours ago
Somalia calls for restraint in Middle East after Iran's attack on Israel

Somalia calls for restraint in Middle East after Iran's attack on Israel

9 hours ago
Eastleigh's Second Avenue residents, businesses bear the brunt of floods 

Eastleigh's Second Avenue residents, businesses bear the brunt of floods 

9 hours ago