Academic union endorses Kenyan presidential candidate

An academic union has endorsed Raila Odinga to become the country’s fifth president in the upcoming general elections to be held on 9 August.

On 29 March, the Universities’ Academic Staff Union (UASU), with membership consisting of lecturers and university staff from 31 public universities across the country, endorsed Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) that forms part of the political coalition, Azimio la Umoja (Quest for Unity).

Odinga’s primary competitor in the presidential race is expected to be William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance Party.

Odinga and officials of the Universities’ Academic Staff Union had a meeting on 29 March in Nairobi at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation to build relations.

“I believe very strongly that a country cannot grow without intellectual property, doing research and funding research, because [otherwise] you will be depending on expatriates, which has been a major drawback,” Odinga said on KTN News, which reported on the meeting.

In his campaigns, the ODM leader has advocated for quality education and promised free university education and better jobs for young people if he wins the elections.

About the woes that lecturers face in universities, Odinga said that, if he won, his administration will prioritise better remuneration for lecturers, citing that good remuneration is a motivating factor for workers, which makes them feel well rewarded.

Constantine Wasonga, UASU secretary general, said that the decision was made after a deep analysis of other candidates who have expressed their interest in succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has also endorsed Odinga.

“We have decided that the former prime minister [Odinga] is our own; we can go out and campaign,” he said.

Mary Mwangi, a representative from the South Eastern Kenya University said: “We affirm our support, realising that the 2022 elections can make or break this country.”

Last year, Odinga sought to garner the support of university students when he held a meeting with current and former students who are part of the Kenya University Students Organisation.

The former premier had asked the youths to be the ambassadors for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a project aimed at fostering opportunities for the youth, but the organisation was later declared unlawful by the Kenyan High Court.

The BBI proposed policies that would help young people to access affordable credit to start a business and create a Youth Commission that would ensure their issues were highlighted in the Kenyan Constitution.