Atwoli & Ledama in War of Words Over Political Survival

Ole Kina and Atwoli
A photo collage of Francis Atwoli (Left), the secretary general of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina (Right).

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli and Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina on Thursday engaged in a war of words over their political survival following Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga's electoral loss in 2022.

Atwoli, who has in the recent past established a strong political relationship with President William Ruto, was heavily criticised by Ole Kina who accused him of acting based on political expedience and changing his stance after Kenya Kwanza's win in the 2022 presidential election.

The bitter exchange began when Atwoli praised President Ruto for succesfully organising the African Climate Summit that brought together hundreds of people including Heads of State, VIPs and hundreds of delegates.

"On behalf of Kenyan workers allow me to Congratulate President William Ruto for the well organised Africa Climate Summit. Under the leadership of President Ruto, Nairobi is increasingly becoming the multilateral capital of Africa," Atwoli said in a statement.

From Left: COTU SG Francis Atwoli, President William Ruto and Labour CS Florence Bore in Geneva on Thursday June 15, 2023
From Left: COTU SG Francis Atwoli, President William Ruto, and Labour CS Florence Bore in Geneva on Thursday, June 15, 2023

"Having been going to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend many sessions of ILO for nearly three decades now, I am proud of the transformative work by the President in redefining and repositioning Nairobi’s place in Africa," Atwoli stated.

Atwoli claimed that the success of Africa Climate Summit will make Ruto to go down in history as one of the greatest leaders Kenya has ever had.

"The African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action will equal be etched in the annals of history," Atwoli claimed in a statement.

However, irked by the statement, Ledama accused Atwoli of seeking the attention of the President as part of his survival tactics, especially after jumping ship.

"You really know how to survive, don’t you? How is the farm at Ildamat? I will stop by on my way to South Africa and we can have a cup of tea! I will bring the milk," Ledama chided Atwoli.

In a well crafted response, Atwoli told the Narok Senator to accept the obvious and work with the Kenya Kwanza government in order to lift the country's economy.

"Senator, Mgala muume na haki umpe. Your views notwithstanding, give it to the President for a job well done. I have cows, but I am made to understand that you are in the milk business. If your milk is good, I’m a potential customer. I’m a just man," Atwoli stated.

Previously, a staunch critic of President William Ruto, the COTU Secretary General made a surprise visit to State House Nairobi and met with with the Head of State on December 1, 2022. 

Before the 2022 election, Atwoli affirmed that he had credible information that Ruto would not be elected by President.

However, after Ruto's victory, Atwoli said that he was willing to work with the new government in the interests of Kenyan workers.

The meeting took place in the presence of a section of leaders from the Western Kenya region. 

At the meeting, Atwoli and Ruto discussed a number of issues, including the ratification of ILO C190, outsourcing of labour, and the implementation of the 2022-2023 budget. 

Atwoli also asked for an appointment with the Head of State to meet and share with all COTU (K) Affiliated General Secretaries.

In a statement after the meeting, Atwoli said that he had a "fruitful" discussion with Ruto. He said that they agreed to work together to address the challenges facing Kenyan workers.

Ruto also noted that he was committed to working with COTU to improve the lives of workers. He said that he was impressed by Atwoli's commitment to the rights of workers.

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina
Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina
Ledama Ole Kina