Secretary-General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), Francis Atwoli on Saturday, February 10 sparked online reactions after he bid farewell to his long-serving security officer, Sergeant Robert Chembe.
According to Brother Atwoli as he is popularly known, the security officer is set to retire after serving him for more than 20 years.
“Bidding farewell to my trustworthy and loyal security officer Sergeant Robert Chembe, who has been around me for over twenty years.
He is now proceeding on leave pending retirement. May God Bless Him and His Family,” stated Atwoli.
The announcement attracted mixed reactions from Kenyans, with many challenging him to borrow a leaf from Chembe and retire from COTU.
Kenyans go after Atwoli
“You should also retire. You are doing more harm than good to Kenyans. You no longer protect Kenyan workers.”
Meanwhile, another user chimed in with a mix of admiration and jest, stating, “Papa Atwoli himself. You mean your security guard is retiring before you. Represent us, Papa.”
The COTU leader’s career spans decades of service to the labor movement in Kenya.
Born on June 6, 1949, Atwoli assumed the role of Secretary-General of COTU in 2001.
He has served with three four successive governments. “Jomo Kenyatta employed me on June 2 in 1967,” Atwoli said while addressing a politically rally in his home constituency of Khwisero in Kakamega County.
He holds several powerful positions in the labour world, including Chairman of the East African Trade Union Confederation and Vice President of the International Trade Union Confederation.
Trade unionist cum politician
Apart from his advocacy for workers’ rights, Atwoli has been actively involved in national politics.
In the run up to the 2022 General Election, Atowli supported Azimio leader Raila Odinga and openly opposed the candidature of William Ruto, who was then the Deputy President. He maintained that Ruto had zero chances of winning the presidency.
“William Ruto is not going to win the elections because if you were to win elections if you want to be a president and you are working with somebody who is ahead of you, you support this person till the end. You don’t start preparing a marina for him in order for you to win,” said Atwoli in 2021.
After Ruto’s win, Atwoli called on the Azimio leader to accept that he lost the 2022 presidential bid to Ruto.
He denied ever saying that Ruto would lose the elections.
“As I have said always, William Samoei Ruto is an articulate politician. But I had envisioned that he can’t become the fifth President of Kenya, I did not say he can’t be a president,” he said.
Since then, Atwoli is a darling of the state, endorsing President Ruto’s agenda.