Last-minute shot to woo Raila to attend debate

Written by on 26 July 2022

Organisers of the presidential debate were last evening attempting to convince Azimio-One Kenya candidate Raila Odinga to change his mind after promising to skip the event planned for this evening.

Their efforts were intensified as Deputy President William Ruto confirmed he will be present for the debate, which is expected to attract millions of viewers.

Raila threw a spanner in the works on Sunday after promising to snub the debate, claiming he was not willing to share a podium with Ruto.

The Debate is organised by the Media Owners Association, Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) and Media Council of Kenya. It is set to be aired live from Catholic University of Eastern Africa despite Raila’s decision.

KEG President Churchill Otieno told People Daily that his team was talking to Raila’s courtiers in the hope they will persuade him to reconsider his position.

“We are engaging with his advisers and we are hopeful he will attend the debate,” Churchill said.  In a press release, the Kenya Presidential Debate Secretariat said they had prepared a platform that was friendly to all participants expected at the event.

“We continue to engage all stakeholders, including the various presidential campaign teams. We are committed to make the debates as inclusive and representative as possible,” the Secretariat said.

Last Tuesday, the consortium organised successful debates between running mates and it was expected today’s event would be the culmination of a series of verbal battles pitting key figures in this year’s election.

Raila’s running mate, Martha Karua, and Ruto’s deputy Rigathi Gachagua faced off in the feud that ended up being overshadowed by verbal attacks on their principals.

Fringe running mates Justina Wamae of Roots Party and Ruth Mutua of Agano Party also participated in their own debate two hours before the main event.

Speaking in Uasin Gishu on Monday, Ruto accused Raila of chickening out for fear of being asked tough questions around his agenda for the country.

“Those we are competing with have run away from the debate because they do not have any agenda. The only plan that exists in this election belongs to Kenya Kwanza. Our competitors have no plan, agenda and no ideas on how to take Kenya forward. That is why he has run away from the debate,” he said.

Our opponent

The DP challenged the Azimio leader to “come for the debate, I am waiting for you.”

While explaining the decision to snub the debate, Raila Campaign Secretariat spokesperson Prof Makau Mutua said they were not eager for a face-off with Ruto, who he said had been insulting them in his campaigns.

Mutua said it would be a “bad idea” for their candidate, saying doing so would authenticate the insults Ruto has been throwing at them during campaigns. “As is well known, our opponent has traversed the country hurling epithets at us and other key national leaders, including vile sexist attacks. It would be a colossal mistake to reward such a person with a national debate. We will not help his failing campaign. He can explain himself and his poor record to voters without our help,” Mutua said.

The debate secretariat, however, assured Raila and all the other presidential contestants of fair treatment and integrity during the exercise. “We wish to reiterate our commitment to delivering a debate founded on the principles of fairness, integrity, independence and accountability as enshrined in the Presidential Debates Guidelines,” the statement added.

In Mombasa, United Democratic Alliance leaders claimed Raila had opted out of the much-publicised presidential debate because he had no agenda for the country. 

Speaking at the party’s headquarters in Nyali, Mombasa, the leaders, led by Mombasa Governor candidate Hassan Omar, asked Kenyans to ignore his town hall meeting, terming it a diversion of attention from real issues affecting the country.

 “He has no agenda for this country. He he has sold false hope, and fights on theoretical issues. He knows he has no agenda for the key sectors that is why he is afraid to debate with Ruto,” Omar claimed.

Bad idea

Instead of the debate, Azimio plans a town hall meeting where they will engage in a question-and-answer session instead of the debate.

“Unfortunately, a traditional debate structure with opposing candidates joined together on stage is a bad idea this year. In lieu of a traditional debate, we plan to take part in a televised town hall at Jericho Social Hall in Nairobi’s Eastlands with ordinary Kenyans to offer our solutions to the challenges facing the country and common people,” Mutua said.

Roots Party candidate George Wajackoyah has also warned he would not attend a debate with his Agano counterpart  David Mwaure.  The two have been slated to face-off in another tier after they polled less than five per cent in opinion polls.

However, Wajackoyah wants to face off with Ruto and Raila who have been placed together owing to their higher popularity in the presidential contest.

– Additional reporting by Harrison Kivisu

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