Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Saturday waded into the ‘mambo ni matatu’ fiasco, seizing the opportunity to send Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli to deliver a message to President William Ruto over the latter’s remarks which have been widely perceived as a threat to billionaire industrialist Jaswant Rai.
While sharing the same podium at a funeral of a COTU official in Vihiga County on Saturday, September 2, Raila expressed concern over Ruto’s remarks terming the sentiments reckless and unpresidential.
President William Ruto has come under heavy criticism for the remarks from different quarters for telling Rai, who has huge interests in the sugar sector, to stop frustrating reforms or face three consequences – a jail term, leave the country or go to heaven.
A photo of sugar tycoon Jaswant Singh Rai.
Raila while cheekily referencing Atwoli’s newfound friendship with Ruto asked the COTU boss to advise Ruto to refrain from making similar comments in the future.
“If someone powerful gives a person three options, is that good leadership? We do not want to witness such threats. That is careless talk.
“Atwoli tell your friend to cease. We do not want such talk. We want to move on in peace, love and unity,” he stated.
The ODM leader called on Kenyans to be vigilant even as he cautioned against underestimating the gravity of Ruto’s statements.
The former Prime Minister underscored the need for proper checks and balances to rein in on political leaders to prevent Kenya from sliding into the precipice.
Prior to inviting Raila to address the audience, Atwoli expressed his backing for Ruto’s strong stance against corruption lamenting that the vice has obstructed service delivery to the Kenyans.
The veteran unionist maintained that he cannot support persons accused of corruption which he observed is the main problem affecting the country.
“Ruto is saying what Kenyans want to hear. There are so many people engaged in graft and they need such a person to deal with them and we will push him to deal with them. This country is bigger than all of us,” the COTU boss asserted.
During his Western Kenya tour last week, Ruto warned Rai against interfering with the operations of Mumias Sugar Company. The President directed the industrialist to withdraw the court cases that he had filed in court challenging the leasing of the miller.
“Kesi watoe and hao wenyewe watoke. Mnanielewa ? Nimewambia mambo ni matatu. Wakitaka kuniletea kisirani labda wahame Kenya, ama nitawaweka jela ama wasafiri waende mbiguni.”
“Let them withdraw all those court cases. I have given them three options. If they frustrate me; either leave Kenya, end up in jail or go to heaven,” Ruto charged.
Following the threat, Rai and other petitioners withdrew the cases even as events around the struggling sugar miller continue to unfold.
A photo of the entrance gate to Mumias Sugar Company.