Kenya 2022: Leading presidential running mates clash during debate

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 21 July 2022 17:53, updated on Friday, 22 July 2022 14:40

Kenya's deputy president William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua launch their manifesto ahead of the forthcoming presidential election at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, 30 June 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

In Kenya, four presidential running mates battled it out during a 90-minute debate on Tuesday night in a last-minute move to persuade undecided voters, ahead of the 9 August national elections.

All eyes were on Rigathi Gachagua, William Ruto’s running mate and Martha Karua, Raila Odinga’s deputy pick, with integrity issues taking centre stage.

War on corruption

Karua described herself as an honest and hardworking individual who does not believe in accumulation of wealth while in office, stating that she is worth KSh150m ($1.2m). “I’m not hungry for earthly wealth,” she said.

When asked about his source of money, Gachugua – whose three personal accounts were frozen over corruption links – maintained that he is a renowned businessman. He further dismissed reports that he is a billionaire, stating that he is worth KSh800m ($6.7m).

“I don’t have billions, I worked honestly for the money I have,” he said.

He also pledged that if the Kenya Kwanza coalition wins the election, the Ruto-led administration will form a special commission to investigate all corrupt deals under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

Rule of law

For her part, Karua said if Raila Odinga wins the presidency, anyone found to be involved in theft of public funds will face the law. An Odinga win will see Karua double as justice minister.

When asked what kind of deputies they will be if any of them form the next government, Karua said she will help Odinga stick to the rule of law. “I will be a deputy president who is respectful of the Constitution, the people of Kenya and my principal.”

Voters in Kenya are decided by now, these debates have little impact

Gachagua, on the other hand, dismissed the notion that disagreements could emerge between himself and Ruto if they are elected. “It is incomprehensible that we could have sideshows,” he said.

Impressed by performance

After the debate was concluded, Odinga took to Twitter to congratulate Karua, terming her performance as impressive.

He said: “Your poise, mastery of subject matters. I congratulate my able deputy and team member Martha Karua.”

Ruto also lauded Gachagua, describing him as a very able running mate.

“Kenyans are confident that in you we have a seasoned, passionate and focused leader to help us steer Kenya Kwanza to victory and the nation to prosperity,” he said on Twitter.

Debating the debate

Georga Maina, who has indicated that he will vote for Ruto, however says Gachagua was not given sufficient time in the debate as was anticipated.

“I loved how [Rigathi] Gachagua explained issues though time was limited,” he tells The Africa Report.

Hillary Kabei, an Odinga supporter, says Karua showed maturity and tolerance in the debate, which makes her a trustable leader.

“It was wonderful to see Martha [Karua] calm and speak from the heart. I’m happy,” he says.

Limited influence

Brian Wanyama, political analyst, says while debates are important for candidates to explain their promises to voters, it is difficult for them to influence elections, unlike in Western countries.

“Voters in Kenya are decided by now, these debates have little impact,” he says.

The two other running mates who participated in the debate are Justina Wamae (Roots Party) and Ruth Mutua (Agano Party).

On 26 July, the four presidential candidates – Raila Odinga, William Ruto, George Wajackoyah and George Mwaure – are expected to face off in another much-anticipated debate.

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