One of Kenya’s two main presidential candidates, Raila Odinga, will not take part in an upcoming election debate, his campaign team announced on Sunday, accusing his main rival of trying to avoid issues like corruption.
Odinga, 77, a former prime minister, and Vice President William Ruto, 55, are the main contenders in the August 9 presidential poll.
But in a statement announcing that Odinga would boycott Tuesday’s debate, his campaign spokesman accused Ruto of trying to duck discussion on key issues.
Ruto “demanded that the debate not focus on corruption, integrity, ethics and governance – the major existential issues facing Kenya,” Odinga’s spokesperson said in the statement.
“Any debate without these questions would be an insult to the intelligence of Kenyans. This is why we have no intention of sharing a national podium with someone who lacks basic decency,” he added.
Instead, Odinga plans to participate in a televised town hall meeting in an eastern neighborhood 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 organizers of the debate.
He said he was “ready to answer any questions and speak on any subject that arises during the debate”, but added that his presence was “conditional” on certain subjects.
“We hope the moderators will allocate equal time to issues affecting Kenyans and also give contestants a fair opportunity to address them,” the letter reads.
“To this end, we wish to know in advance the number of minutes that will be allocated to the respective interventions, including but not limited to Governance and Integrity, Agriculture, Health, MSMEs and manufacturing, housing, digital economy, foreign policy, etc. etc “, he continued.
Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta can no longer run and has endorsed Odinga over his deputy of nine years after an acrimonious falling out.