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No, trade union boss and Odinga supporter Atwoli didn’t flee Kenya after Ruto’s presidency win

A photo of Francis Atwoli, the secretary general of Kenya’s Central Organization of Trade Unions, standing with a travelling bag at an airport is circulating on Facebook in August 2022.

It’s being posted with the claim that it shows him fleeing the country.

The photo went viral just hours before Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance had won the 9 August presidential election.

“COTU SG Francis Atwoli already in Malaysia,” one Facebook user captioned the photo. Other users said he was escaping to Germany.

Atwoli is a close ally of Raila Odinga, head of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition and Ruto’s main rival for the presidency. The trade union boss publicly confronted and mocked Ruto during Odinga’s campaign.

The photo and claim can also be seen here, here, here, here and here on Facebook.

But does it really show Atwoli leaving Kenya in August 2022? We checked.


Atwoli still in Kenya

On 12 August, the day the photo first appeared on Facebook, Atwoli posted it on Twitter, stamped as “FAKE”.

“Somebody using my old photo while arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, five years ago,” he tweeted.

On 14 August, two days later, local media showed him attending a church service with Odinga in Nairobi. And on 17 August, he led the trade union in mourning one of its members.

Atwoli has not left Kenya.

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