Just last week, it was widely announced that longtime COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli had once again been reelected as the organisation’s head for another term of five years at the top.
Atwoli, who was elected unopposed, in his acceptance speech thanked the 250 delegates for having faith in his leadership and keeping him at the helm of the vibrant union.
“Through my election, I commit to always champion for the rights of workers and I will not be cowed,” he said.
He further said: “I promise to serve you with all my might and strength and not betray the trust you have bestowed in me,” he said on his official Twitter account.
However, details are now emerging concerning some of the tactics Atwoli used to not only bar his strongest competitor, Seth Panyako, from running, but also ensure that he is reelected unopposed.
On Tuesday last week, Panyako, who is the KNUN boss, wrote to Atwoli protesting what he termed his underhand dealings to lock out the nurses’ body from the polls.
Atwoli had in a letter dated April 1 claimed that KNUN is not listed among unions that have completed branch and national elections, thus unqualified to participate in the polls.
“As part of the requirements by Cotu constitution, we have obtained a letter from the labour commissioner’s office listing unions that have since met this requirement and KNUN is not listed to be among the unions whose elections have since been completed,” Atwoli said in the letter.
However, according to Panyako, Atwoli’s move was meant to bar him from contesting the top position, insisting KNUN had met all the requirements, including registering its new office with the Registrar of Trade Unions.
“We have noted with concern that you have addressed your letter to one Hellen Apiyo, Acting commissioner for labour inquiring on the status of the election instead of requesting the same from Registrar of Trade unions who is the custodian of the election records,” Panyako said in response to Atwoli.
“It is clear to us that there is a predetermined decision to use Hellen Apiyo to bar some of us from participating in Cotu elections.”
The five unions had earlier moved to the Employment and Labour Relations Court to stop the elections demanding that Cotu accept their affiliation request and be allowed to participate in the elections of officials.
Finally, Panyako was barred from contesting, leaving Atwoli alone on the ballot.