Raila, Atwoli trade barbs in first post-election public encounter » Capital News

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 3 — Azimio leader Raila Odinga and his former political ally turned foe Francis Atwoli on Saturday traded barbs when they met for the first time in public since President William Ruto assumed office in September 2022.

The encounter took place at the burial service of the late former COTU Chairperson Rajab Mwondi, held at Kapchemugung Secondary School in Vihiga County.

Odinga and the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General traded verbal blows over their respective political choices, particularly since Atwoli shifted his allegiance to the Kenya Kwanza administration.

He took a swipe at Atwoli, accusing him of aligning himself with the Ruto administration for personal gain rather than advocating for the rights of Kenyan workers, who, according to Odinga, continue to suffer under the current government.

“What we (the opposition) are pushing for, including inviting Kenyans to participate in protests, is Atwoli’s responsibility, but he has chosen to ignore the plight of the workers; he (Atwoli) is an imbecile (sic),” Odinga said as Atwoli looked on.

In his defense, Atwoli argued that his decision to support President Ruto was motivated by his desire to enhance the well-being of workers in the country.

In Ruto’s defence

The COTU Secretary General explained that his main concern is the welfare of the workers arguing that participating in demos will not resolve the challenges that Kenyan workers face.

“If I am to participate in demos, I must do it with the end goal of fighting for the rights of workers. President Ruto was announced as the legitimately elected president. He has already appointed his Cabinet and he has even gone an extra mile to appoint some ministers from Western region,” Atwoli said.

“You are yet to acknowledge him (Ruto) as the President. Why do you want us to live in denial?”

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Atwoli praised Ruto for his leadership and vowed to support him in his quest to tackle corruption and serve Kenyans.

Although Atwoli has faced constant criticism since joining the Ruto administration, he has maintained that his decision was motivated by the welfare of employees, adding that he need the government of the day to resolve their concerns effectively.

On December 3, 2022, Atwoli defended his move to meet President Ruto after viciously opposing his candidature in 2022.

“Kenya is a democracy and we must accept that things may go in one way or another. We must accept that in the next five years this young man is our President since we are in this country to stay and not in transit headed to Uganda,” Atwoli, speaking during a funeral in Khwisero, Kakamega County, said on December 3.

COTU boss called upon the opposition to execute its mandate of ensuring the government executes its mandate.

Atwoli campaigned fiercely against Ruto’s presidency, at one point going on record stating that Ruto would never succeed then President Uhuru Kenyatta.

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