Kenya presidential candidate Odinga rules self out of debate

Azimio La Umoja Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga reacts on stage during a campaign rally in Murang’a on July 23, 2022, ahead of Kenya’s August 2022 general election. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

One of Kenya’s two leading presidential candidates, Raila Odinga, will not take part in an upcoming electoral debate, his campaign team said Sunday, accusing his principal rival of trying to avoid certain topics such as corruption.

Odinga, 77, a former prime minister, and Deputy President William Ruto, 55, are the leading contenders in the August 9 presidential poll.

But in a statement announcing Odinga would boycott Tuesday’s debate, his campaign spokesman accused Ruto of trying to dodge discussion of key issues.

Ruto “has demanded that the debate not focus on corruption, integrity, ethics, and governance — the key existential questions that Kenya faces,” Odinga’s spokesman said in the statement.

“Any debate devoid of these questions would be an insult to the intelligence of Kenyans. That is why we do not intend to share a national podium with a person who lacks basic decency,” he added.

Instead, Odinga plans to take part in a televised town hall meeting in an eastern neighbourhood of the capital Nairobi with “ordinary Kenyans”, according to the statement.

The announcement follows a letter sent Thursday by Ruto’s director of communications to the debate organisers.

It said that he was “ready to answer any question and speak to any matter that arises during the debate” but added that his attendance was “contingent” on certain matters.

“We expect that the moderators will allocate equal time to issues affecting Kenyans and equally allow candidates a fair opportunity to address them,” the letter said.

“To that end we wish to know in advance the number of minutes that will be allocated to respective interventions including, but not restricted to governance and integrity, agriculture, healthcare, MSMEs and manufacturing, housing, the digital economy, foreign policy, and so on and so forth,” it continued.

Sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta cannot run again and has endorsed Odinga over his deputy of nine years after an acrimonious falling out.


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