On Ghana trip, Ruto makes case for Raila's AU bid

Thursday April 04 2024

Kenya's President William Ruto (L) and his Ghanaian counterpart President Nana Akufo-Addo pose for a picture at Jubilee House, the Office of the President, in Accra, Ghana on April 3, 2024. PHOTO | PCS


Kenya's President William Ruto on Wednesday secured support for Azimio la Umoja Coalition and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga’s bid for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC) from Ghana after President Nana Akufo-Addo pledged his support.

It was the first such pitch by President Ruto in West Africa since they had some form of ‘handshake’ with his erstwhile nemesis Odinga whom he has since publicly backed to seek the AU top seat.

Ruto had pitched to Raila to neighbours before but only Rwanda has publicly pledged support yet.

Read: Ruto: EAC to back one candidate for AUC top job

Speaking during his state visit to the West African nation, President Ruto said Kenya's candidature is informed by its leading role in enhancing and sustaining the pan African agenda.

“This is in terms of independence and sovereignty, peace and security, development and prosperity as well as sustainability and climate action.


“We hope to work with all as we strike to achieve Africa’s 2063 agenda,” Ruto said.

He lauded President Akufo-Addo for backing Kenya’s AUC quest. At the joint press conference, Akufo-Addo focused on what was in it for his country.

“I just sought the support of President Ruto for the candidature of Ghana’s dynamic Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hon Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, for the position of Commonwealth Secretary General, at the forthcoming elections to be held during the 2024 Commonwealth head of states' meeting in Samoa,” Akufo-Addo said.

So far, Ayorkor Botchwey will compete with Lesotho’s candidate for the post.

Akufo-Addo will probably be out of office by the time elections at both the AUC and the Commonwealth take place. He is onto his last term ahead of presidential elections due in December this year. AU will go into polls in February next year while the Commonwealth will vote in September. But it will matter less is Addo’s party retains the power.

Read: Africa democracy put to test as states head to polls

“I thank you most sincerely, Your Excellency, for accepting to support Kenya’s candidature for the position of the chairperson of the AUC for the period 2025-2028 which has been initiated following comprehensive stakeholder engagement process across governments,” President Ruto said.

He also said Kenya will support Ghana’s bid for the position of Secretary General of the Commonwealth for the period 2024-2029. 

“This presents an opportunity for Kenya and Ghana to collaborate,” he said.

President Ruto was expected to head to Guinea-Bissau in a first official visit by a Kenyan leader to the West African country, where he was expected to also pitch support.

The definitive timelines for the elections have not been set, but a Panel of Eminent Persons was expected to meet in Addis Ababa this week to discuss the upcoming AUC polls and timelines for applications.

“They plan to publish or announce the vacancies for AU Commission by end of the week. The advertisements run for two months hence the deadline for submission of applications is likely to be first week of June,” said Elkanah Odembo, a former Kenyan envoy to the US who now one of Odinga’s strategists for the race.

“However, our strategy will be to submit well in advance of the deadline.”

This year, only candidates from Eastern Africa region will be eligible for the AUC chairperson position, part of new rules on rotation. After a rigorous vetting, they will then debate each other at a public televised forum where they will field questions from the public.