By Faridah N Kulumba
Africa-Press – Kenya. On 26 July 2022, just a few days before Kenya’s 9th August elections, the eagerly awaited presidential debate took place at the Catholic University for Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Karen. Kenyans were eager to see how the two top presidential candidate competitors Raila Odinga for Azimio la Umoja and Deputy President William Ruto will answer questions and explain what they will do to take Kenya to another level if elected president.
Surprisingly the debate had only one debater DP Ruto who appeared solo after his main opponent opposition leader of the Orange Democratic Movement Raila decided to boycott the debate. The debate was broadcasted live by all media outlets and was organized in conjunction with the Media Owners Association, the Media Council of Kenya, and the Kenya Editors’ Guild.
August 2022 elections
More than 22 million Kenyan voters will cast their ballots for president, members of parliament, and members of the Kenyan senate. President Uhuru Kenyatta will be retiring after serving his two terms which barred him from seeking a third term according to Kenya’s constitution. President Uhuru endorsed Opposition leader Raila Odinga over his own Deputy President Ruto for nine years after an acrimonious falling out.
Only four candidates and their running mates were cleared as presidential candidates. The candidates include Raila former Prime Minister of Kenya and leader of (ODM), Ruto current Deputy President of Kenya and leader of United Democratic Alliance, David Waihiga Mwaure, leader of Agano Party, and George Wajackoyah, leader of Roots Party of Kenya. On 2nd May 2022, a list of 47 independent candidates was submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). But On 13 May, the IEBC released a list of 38 contenders who had been accepted. The competition is between Raila who was endorsed by the President of Kenya Uhuru and DP Ruto.
The only presidential debater Kenya’s number two in command Ruto had the stage to himself for 90 minutes. He assured Kenyans that he is the right candidate with a plan to take the country to the next level. According to DP Ruto, Kenya is facing a lot of mounting challenges such as high cost of living and corruption, but he promised all that to be history if Kenyans trust him to be their 5th president due to the fact that he has a huge track of record of what they have achieved. Ruto also promised to achieve more if given the opportunity.
Raila’s reasons for boycotting
The news about ODM Raila 77 years, pulling out of the presidential debate started last week. On Tuesday the day, the debate was supposed to take place, Raila’s secretariat confirmed that he would not share the same podium with UDA party presidential candidate Ruto. According to Raila’s explanation that he was not ready to debate someone who had no regard for ethics and public morals.
Raila’s spokesman accused Ruto of trying to doge discussion of key issues. Ruto demanded that the debate not focus on corruption, integrity, ethics, and governance the key existential questions that Kenya faces, and any debate devoid of these questions would be an insult to the intelligence of Kenyans.
DP Ruto’s side of the story
The Kenya Kwanza Alliance Ruto after attending the presidential debate by himself bragged by saying that his competitor is not the real presidential candidate he’s just a project of the system. According to Ruto, his opponent Raila opted out of the debate due to the fact that he does not have a plan, he does not have an agenda, he cannot articulate anything to the people of Kenya because he fears answering difficult questions, and that Raila has been part of the administration for 5 years and that during those years many things happened.
Where does the boycott leave Raila?
According to a political analyst, Brian Wanyama Raila missed an opportunity to articulate his issues to the voters during the debate, which he says turned out to be a question and answer session. Mellanie Busienei a Kenyan who watched the debate believes that the debate changed his mind on who she will vote for come 9th August. Although she did not reveal which candidate the debate enlightened her on who can commit and who cannot.
However, some of Raila’s supporters seconded his move for boycotting the debate. According to them, Raila is a statesman who cannot be subjected to insults.
ODM Raila is still ahead of DP Ruto just a few days before Kenya’s general elections according to a recent survey. However, the ball is now in the hands of 22 million Kenyan voters to decide who will be their next president, that is if the election will be free and fare.