, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 1 – He’s not a man known to walk on egg-shells in his public addresses and Sunday was no different when he ruffled not only the feathers of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo but those of the political class as well.
Francis Atwoli, the long-serving Secretary General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), started off his Labour Day speech by urging companies not to outsource services, describing it as a modern day form of slavery.
“It’s existing in a state of blissful ignorance but it’s no moral defence to the reality that these people are paid well below market standard, many times late and enjoy no health or retirement benefits,” he said.
That out of the way, he got to the business of letting his members know who, in his opinion, is to blame for the fact that those on minimum wage would be receiving no increment in the coming month.
The, “mama shetani (evil woman),” he identified was Mugo whose argument that pay should reflect productivity, he said, did not reflect the dynamics of Kenya’s labour market.
Next he took on the role of government advisor on the hot button topic of the day: calls by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), the leading opposition, for a change of guard at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ahead of the 2017 polls.
He advised President Uhuru Kenyatta not to publicly go on the defensive over the issue as he risked being out-maneuvered by the former Premier Raila Odinga whom, he said, had been playing politics, “since he was 14 (years of age).”
Instead he advised the head of state to speak to the sitting IEBC commissioners, “quietly,” and usher them to the door so there would be no question as the legitimacy of his win.
Undoubtedly, Atwoli’s foray into the debate was like opening a can of warms with every politician who took to the microphone after him registering their two cents.
Nominated Member of Parliament Johnson Sakaja was the first to take his turn and he, expectedly, being Chairman of the Party—The National Alliance— on whose ticket President Uhuru Kenyatta was elected on, said it was untenable to have a change of guard at the electoral commission with every election.
Surprisingly, the President’s MP Moses Kuria of Gatundu South, supported a change of guard at the electoral commission saying, “They belong to Raila,” given the commissioners took up office when Odinga was in office as Premier.
The only opposition MP to speak, Homa Bay Women’s Representative Gladys Wanga, held the ground that it was evident that the public did not have much confidence in IEBC as constituted. “The church has said it and now so has the ruling coalition (Kuria).”
Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko sought to get back to the business of the day, labour, by urging employers to make good on overpay and bonuses but not before taking a jab at Sakaja who like him is eyeing the Nairobi Gubernatorial seat. “Let Sakaja’s twenty supporters calm down, and my many supporters should also calm down.”
Sakaja’s gloves however, remained on as he sought to assure their supporters that there would be no Jubilee implosion over the seat. “Sonko is not my enemy or is Bishop Margaret Wanjiru. Our real enemy is the incumbent who is letting Nairobi go to the dogs.”
Atwoli had set the ball rolling on the Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero by giving him a poor performance rating.
“The National Government should take over Uhuru Park. Just look at how dilapidated it is. Nairobi is also swimming in filth and it takes longer to move from one side of town to another than a flight to Dubai.”
Sakaja cited the tragedy in Huruma where a house collapsed, blaming on rampant corruption at City Hall, as earlier alluded by the governor but disagreed with him that tribal politics as one of the causes.