Atwoli In Punic After Raila Odinga Turned Down Labour Day Invitation 

By The Weekly Vision Team

The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General, Francis Atwoli, is a man under siege from both sides of the political divide. Mr. Atwoli, a shrewd political operator, is currently under threat of being ousted from his office by operatives in President William Ruto’s administration. His only hope now is Raila Odinga, whom he reportedly invited to grace the Labor Day celebrations on May 1st as the guest of honour. Mr Odinga is however said to have declined the invitation.

The Raila-Atwoli relationship has been sour of late after the COTU boss jumped ship from the Azimio coalition bandwagon in support of President William Ruto soon after he was declared the winner of the 2022 presidential election by the IEBC. The defection by Mr Atwoli impacted Raila Odinga the most, sources say. While Mr Odinga is known for his forgiving demeanour in the political realm, insider sources disclosed that he has never let go of Atwoli’s betrayal.

Could this betrayal be the reason behind his declining an invitation to grace the Labor Day invitation? Atwoli is said to have turned to Kalonzo Musyoka, the leader of the Wiper Party, instead. However, the invite and endorsement of Kalonzo for the 2027 presidential contest have left political analysts pondering why Mr Atwoli thought the Wiper leader was the most competent and fit to fill Raila Odinga’s big political shoes, against UDA’s William Ruto. 

Rumours are circulating that Kalonzo’s endorsement is an indirect warning to organizers of separate Labor Day celebrations. Mr Atwoli is well aware of the popularity of Azimio in Nairobi, and associating himself with the coalition now is intended to entice a larger attendance from supporters. The move could also be a way of conveying a message to President Ruto that he has an alternative. Observers point out that, in terms of politics, Atwoli’s influence within the Luhya community is considerable.

Mr Atwoli appears to be re-evaluating his decision to abandon Raila Odinga and Azimio; he is now gravitating back towards the opposition. This change of stance came about when it was realized that President Ruto had effectively severed ties with him and was actively plotting his removal from COTU. The main question is: what was the reason behind Atwoli’s decision to invite Kalonzo and DAP-K party leader Eugene Wamalwa as chief guests at the COTU prayers preceding the Labour Day festivities? The invitation was a deliberate effort to convey a specific message to Kenyans. In a firm statement, Atwoli disclosed that he was the one who persuaded Wamalwa to align himself with Azimio. According to Atwoli, Eugene had already made up his mind to work alongside William Ruto before the last elections. The endorsement of Kalonzo Musyoka by Atwoli raises many questions about the move.

The reality is that President Ruto welcomed Mr Atwoli into his Kenya Kwanza administration as a way of affirming his new position as president after being rejected by the position, but once he solidified his position, he now sees Atwoli as a surplus requirement, and President no longer needs him around.

Due to his position as COTU secretary general, Atwoli is mandated by the constitution to be a member of several boards, including the NSSF. Sources say the president has resolved to remove Mr Atwoli from the NSSF board, but the move does not seem to have succeeded. It now seems that the only viable option for his removal from the NSSF board is to kick him out of COTU.