Uncertainty hits presidential debate again

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By COLLINS OMULO
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The planned presidential and running mates debates slated for July 24 and July 17, respectively, have been thrown into confusion and may not take place after all.

Some presidential candidates and their running mates on Sunday threatened to boycott the debates that are supposed to be held at Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Karen.

CLARIFY
In what appears to be a fresh blow, five presidential candidates – 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.

CRITERIA
The letter had cited discrimination against uninvited candidates, saying it was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

They promised to attend the debate only if their grievances are addressed and a clarification made on the mode of debate.

“Further to our previous communications on the above referenced matter, you are yet to clarify to us that you are not pursuing two tier Presidential Debates.

“Should you therefore be still committed to this discriminatory approach, the undersigned being duly cleared presidential candidates and their running mates will have no option but not to participate in what is a clearly unconstitutional, illegal and discriminatory process,” part of the letter seen by the Nation read.

CAMPAIGNS
However, even without the new turn of events, there had been rumours that the running mates for the two top presidential candidates, William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka, would give the debate a wide berth.

Unconfirmed reports had indicated that Mr Ruto would not attend the debate, and it later emerged that he would join President Uhuru Kenyatta in Lamu for campaigns.

Mr Waruru had earlier told the Nation that preparations had been finalised, although he noted that none of the running mates had confirmed that they would attend.

“We invited all the candidates and we expect them to turn up tomorrow for the debate, although none of them have responded to us formally either declining or confirming their attendance,” Mr Waruru said at the time.

“There is still time for them to confirm but as a committee we are fully prepared for the debate,” Mr Waruru added.

UHURU AND RAILA DECLINE
Last week, the committee was forced to postpone the presidential debate from July 10 to 24 after President Kenyatta and National Supper Alliance flag-bearer Raila Odinga said they would not attend, citing issues to do with organisation.

But this was dismissed by the organisers, who maintained that they had been in constant communication with the candidates and that the teams attached to the various candidates had regularly been updated on the details of the debate.

The debate will air live on all top local TV and radio stations.

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