NAIROBI – One of Kenya’s two main presidential candidates, Raila Odinga, will not take part in an upcoming election debate, his campaign team announced on Sunday, accusing his main rival of avoiding issues such as corruption.
Odinga, 77, a former prime minister, and Vice President William Ruto, 55, are the main contenders in the August 9 presidential election.
But in a statement announcing that Odinga would boycott Tuesday’s debate, his campaign spokesman accused Ruto of trying to evade discussion of key issues.
Ruto “demanded that the debate not focus on corruption, integrity, ethics and governance – the most important existential issues facing Kenya,” Odinga’s spokesman said in the communicated.
“Any debate without these questions would be an insult to the Kenyan intelligence service. Therefore, we do not intend to share a national podium with someone who lacks basic decency,” he added.
Instead, Odinga plans to attend a televised town hall meeting in an eastern neighborhood of the capital Nairobi with “ordinary Kenyans”, according to the statement.
Debate organizers said they “continue to engage all stakeholders, including the various presidential campaign teams.”
“In accordance with the guidelines for presidential debates, we have shared the topics with all candidates and the moderators will endeavor to cover all topics mentioned in the established schedule,” the statement said.
The debate, scheduled for six hours, will continue on Tuesday, organizers added.
Odinga’s announcement follows a letter that Ruto’s communications director sent to debate organizers on Thursday.
He said he was “ready to answer any questions and speak on any subject that arises during the debate”, but added that his presence on certain subjects was “conditional”.
“We expect moderators to devote equal time to issues affecting Kenyans and give applicants a fair opportunity to address them equally,” the letter read.
“To this end, we want to know in advance how many minutes will be allocated to each intervention, including but not limited to governance and integrity, agriculture, health, MSMEs and manufacturing. , housing, digital economy, foreign policy, etc. so on,” he continued.
Debate organizers insisted that “the moderators choose the questions to ask and do NOT share them with the contestants.”
“They will NOT meet any of the campaign teams or candidates,” they added in the statement.
Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta can no longer run for office and replaced Odinga as his deputy for nine years after a bitter dispute.
- Editor / main report by AFP