Kenya 2022 election: Ruto debates alone as Odinga skips presidential debate

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 28 July 2022 17:13

Kenya holds presidential debate ahead of election in Nairobi
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Kenya Kwanza political coalition speaks during The Presidential Debate 2022 ahead of the general election in Nairobi, Kenya, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

One of Kenya’s leading presidential candidates, deputy president William Ruto appeared alone for a debate on Tuesday July 26 after his main rival Raila Odinga pulled out.

Another candidate, George Wajackoyah, also did not participate, leaving another contender – David Mwaure – to face the questions alone, in the debate that was held on the same day.

A few days before the debate, Raila had sent a statement through his campaign secretariat explaining that he would not appear because he cannot share the same podium with Ruto, describing him as a person who lacks integrity.

The former prime minister also accused Ruto of pressuring the moderators to avoid topics based on corruption and integrity.

“This is a man who has no regard for ethics, public morals or shame. It would be a mistake to reward such a person with a national debate,” Raila said in a statement.

Despite this, Ruto turned up for the debate and answered questions from two moderators for 90 minutes, accusing his main competitor of staying away for fear of answering difficult questions.

“My competitor is not here because he doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t have an agenda,” Ruto said.

Asked about allegations of corruption and his thirst for acquiring property, especially land, Ruto dismissed the claims saying: “Any piece of land that I have is legally acquired.”

According to him, the war against corruption has been politicised and he is the victim. “Enough is enough,” he said.

He accused the current regime of undermining the judiciary by denying it funds to carry its functions in the fight against draft.

The Kenya Kwanza candidate however promised to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate all corruption cases and prosecute them in the court, if he wins the presidency.

Missed opportunity for Raila

Brian Wanyama, a political analyst, says 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.

The debate was like a talk-show. Raila’s absence was unfortunate

He also describes Ruto’s performance as below average because he lacked a challenger and did not clearly articulate his economic plan as was expected.

“The debate was like a talk-show. Raila’s absence was unfortunate,” Wanyama tells The Africa Report.

George Maina, a Ruto supporter who watched the debate, says his candidate performed well and slams Raila for not attending. “He feared Ruto. He should have attended,” he says.

However, for Vital Mugisho, a Raila supporter, it was a wise move for his candidate not to attend the debate.

Mugisho describes Raila as a statesman who cannot be subjected to insults. “I support [Raila] Odinga for not attending. I don’t want him to be insulted on the stage,” he says.

Odinga’s own debate

Raila has now planned his own debate with voters in Nairobi this week, at a town hall meeting that he says he will engage directly with the people and answer their questions on the promises he has made.

Speaking at a political rally on Wednesday, Raila defended his stand on the debate with Ruto, telling supporters that he can meet his challenger at the ballot on 9 August.

In 2017, when Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta were vying for the presidency, they refused to engage Raila in a presidential debate saying they wanted to engage the people directly and not through a debate.

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