Chaos ensued on Saturday after Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli engaged in a tussle with Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi with both vying for the opportunity to welcome Azimio leader Raila Odinga to the podium.
The incident which occurred during the funeral of COTU Chairman Rajab Mwondi in Vihiga County happened as Osotsi, who was addressing the mourners, deviated from the programme and decided to welcome Vihiga Deputy Governor Wilberforce Kitiezo with the intention of being the one to welcome Raila after Kitiezo finished his speech.
Irate by the turn of events, Atwoli stormed to the podium and forcefully seized the microphone from the senator, vehemently asserting that the program must be adhered to, maintaining that it was he was the one who beared the responsibility of inviting the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader to speak to the mourners.
“This is COTU’s funeral so we will follow our programme,” Atwoli remarked.
Azimio’s Raila Odinga addresses the funeral of a COTU official in Vihiga County on September 2, 2023.
“But he is the Deputy Governor of Vihiga?” Osotsi retorted wondering why Kitiezo should not be granted a chance to speak.
A chorus of boos from the mourners in attendance soon followed as they shouted in support of the COTU leader.
While delivering his speech, Osotsi reiterated that ODM was the preferred political party in the region while chiding the government over its attemps to make inroads in the region. According to the legislator, the government will not be successful in its attempts to woo the residents into switching loyalty.
In a quick rejoinder, Atwoli remarked that Raila’s close allies were to blame for hoodwinking him into adopting particular strategies including staging the mass anti-government demonstrations.
“People keep lying to my friend that we need to go to the streets for things to be done, that is not how it is. The Supreme Court already gave their verdict and it should be followed,” Atwoli said.
Raila, on the other hand, accused Atwoli of veering off from his core mandate which is to defend the rights of Kenyan workers and instead choosing to immerse himself into politics.
According to Raila, the COTU boss should be at the frontline of leading the anti-government protests in solidarity with the workers.
Raila also took on President William Ruto, criticising him over his ‘mambo ni matatu’ remarks which have been interpreted as threats to tycoons operating in the sugar sector led by billionaire industrialist Jaswant Rai.
The former prime minister said that such remarks were in bad taste and reckless.
“This is a very reckless talk coming from the president. We need to talk together for the economic growth of the country and the promotion of peaceful co-existence,” Raila stated.
This marked the first time that the ODM leader and the COTU boss shared a podium after the August 2022 polls.
Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi speaks to Azimio’s Raila Odinga during a funeral of a COTU official in Vihiga County on September 2, 2023.