NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 17 – The much awaited presidential running mates debate got underway Monday albeit the absence of all except one candidate, Eliud Kariara.
Kariara took to the podium after it became clear that none of the running mates of the eight presidential elections were keen to face off in a televised television debate.
William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka, running mates for leading presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga of the Jubilee Party and Orange Democratic Movement.
Kariara showed up despite his candidate Japheth Kaluyu in a joint press briefing with Thirdway Alliance’s Ekuru Aukot and independent candidate Michael Wainaina saying he would only show up on condition that all the candidates appear.
Organisers of the Presidential Debates had dispelled fears that the much anticipated running mates debate will not kick off as planned even as Deputy President William Ruto and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka announced that they will not attend.
Speaking to Capital FM News ahead of the debates, the head of the debate secretariat Francis Munywoki said that as far as they are concerned, the debates are still on.
“The stage is set and we are all ready for the debate. We have lined up two debates, one from 5:00pm to 7:00pm and the next one from 8:00pm to 9:30pm. We do not have formal confirmations yet, we are hoping that the candidates will come for the debate,” said Munywoki.
Munywoki however made it clear that they would not allow representatives to debate on behalf of the candidates.
“The presidential debate guidelines do not allow any representatives of the candidates, so we will not allow anyone other than the candidates to debate,” said Munywoki.
On Friday, Ruto tweeted that he was not aware that there was going to be a debate, “Just seen news alert that there will a debate of running mates. Is it true?” Ruto tweeted.
Later, his Communication Secretary David Mugonyi confirmed to Capital FM News that Ruto will not be participating in the debate.
“Yes, Deputy President William Ruto will not be attending to the debate,” said Mugonyi.
Later adding: “There has been no meetings to agree on ground rules such as date of debate, dos and don’ts what is expected of participants etc. There has been no engagement other than an invitation letter that was sent to the Deputy President end of last week. Same issues came up in 2013 and the organisers said they will rectify such hiccups. We fear no debate. We have made ourselves available to the media before and we will continue to. We can debate all and sundry, including all the so-called Nasa principals at one go.”
On Sunday, some running mates threatened to boycott the debate that is supposed to be held at Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Karen over discrimination concerns.
Ekuru Aukot, Michael Wainaina, Cyrus Jirongo, Japheth Kavinga, Joe Nyaga, and Abduba Dida and their running mates: Miriam Mutua, Emmanuel Nzai, Orina Momanyi, Mithiora Kariara and Titus Ngetuny wrote a letter, dated July 16, to the chairman of the Presidential Debates Steering Committee, Wachira Waruru, and Debates Media Ltd, the organiser of both debates, seeking clarification on the mode of the debate.
“It will be a two tier debate as per the guidelines that we published, all candidates that scored less than five percent of the leading opinion polls will debate on the first session while the candidates that scored more than 5 percent in the opinion polls their running mates will debate in the second batch,” said Munywoki.
Most Kenyans are optimistic that the debates will proceed to give candidates a chance to highlight more about their manifestos.
Elizabeth, a city resident, told Capital FM News that she is hopeful that the debate will materialise, “I look forward to seeing the candidates show up for the debate and discuss issues that touch on our lives and especially explain to Kenyans how they will mitigate the high cost of living if they ascend to power,” commented Elizabeth.
Bob, another city resident, hopes to see the candidates take the stage and debate on the issue of unemployment among the youths. “If they really need our votes, they need to avail themselves so that they can make us understand why we should vote for them, above all on how they can empower youths in the country,” said Bob.