Kenya: A journalist once said Cotu boss Francis Atwoli speaks with enough energy to light up Kakamega town. The combative trade unionist spoke to GRACE WEKESA about Ababu Namwamba, the death of his deputy and his choice for Chief Justice

Is it true you once ran for political office and lost?

I did run once, but I was not serious. I had not been given a lot of responsibilities. I was just a director at the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) at the time.

Why haven’t you run for political office again?

I took over leadership of Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union, then Cotu and the East Africa Trade Union Confederation. At the global level, I am number two.

Workers entrusted me to lead them nationally, continently and globally, so, I have grown above the position of MP, senator or governor. The only seat I can go for now if I were to venture into politics is the presidency. But I am not interested due to the respect I have earned and continue to enjoy worldwide.

You don’t have ‘enemies’ in government or the opposition. Is that a good thing?

There are people who are forced to put up with me because they can’t take me anywhere. But a majority are my friends.

Why is it so difficult for Luhyas to unite?

Luhya has been a factor in Kenya politics since independence. During independence, we had two political parties, Kanu and Kadu. Luhyas predominantly voted for Kadu apart from a few founders who were for Kanu like retired politician JB Otiende from Vihiga.

Since Kanu merged with Kadu in the early 60s, Luhyas have been voting as a bloc for Kanu. At one time, every constituency in Western Kenya was in government. Where there was no assistant minister, there was a Cabinet minister.

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