Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga has indicated that he may not attend presidential debate slated for Tuesday.
Through a statement issued by his Presidential Campaign Secretariat spokesman Makau Mutua, Raila noted that sharing a podium with Deputy President William Ruto would be a poor idea.
Mutua alleged that Ruto had issued reservations to the panellists, urging them not to focus on corruption and integrity, two themes that Azimio wished to centre on.
“Our opponent has no regard for ethics, public morals or shame, that is why he has demanded that the debate not focus on corruption, integrity, ethics and governance- the key existential question that Kenya faces. These issues sit at the core of the Azimio campaign. Any debate devoid of these questions will be an insult to the intelligence of Kenyans,” he said.
Raila and his running mate Martha Karua will instead attend a town hall meeting at Jericho Social Hall in Nairobi’s Eastlands.
Azimio Party Secretary Junet Mohamed General jokingly said on Friday that if its demands are not satisfied, the alliance may replace its candidate with controversial Member of Parliament (MP) Babu Owino.
“Raila will only be in the debate if the panel will address integrity, corruption and governance. If the discussion is based on other issues, then we will send Babu Owino instead to debate William Ruto,” he said.
Suleiman Shahbal, a Mombasa businessman who joined Odinga’s campaign secretariat after pulling out of the port city’s gubernatorial election, shared his sentiments.
Ruto’s team stated that the Kenya Kwanza candidate was willing to tackle all essential problems as long as moderators allocated equal time to questions about the economy, healthcare, and other critical issues.
“We expect that the moderators will allocate equal time to issues affecting Kenyans and equally allow candidates a fair opportunity to address them,” Hussein Mohammed, Director of Communications for the William Ruto Presidential Campaign, said in a statement on Thursday.
Roots Party candidate George Wajackoyah had also raised concern vowing to boycott the upcoming presidential debate if he will not be given a chance to face the other three candidates.
Wajackoyah questioned the criteria used to arrive at the current formula where the first debate features candidates who have polled less than five percent in three recent opinion polls and the second with candidates who have polled above five percent in the same survey.
The root party leader accused the organizers of the debate of discrimination ahead of the much-anticipated presidential debate.
In an interview with a local television, Wajackoyah confirmed that indeed he will not participate if he will not be accorded a chance to face off with all the other candidates.
“If you go to Canada, UK, US, China, Singapore, all presidential candidates are put together for people to see their body language, how they answer questions, how they look at each other, how they check the temperatures and temper, but these guys come in and say this is how it should be, no, I will boycott it,” he said.