The upcoming 2017 presidential debates slated for Monday, July 10th would see the absence of both incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his biggest rival Raila Odinga.
First to hint his absence from the American-style debate was Uhuru. Last week Thursday, an insider on Uhuru’s team revealed to the media that the president may not be attending the debate.
The insider cited reasons being that the president was not formally invited to the debate and that his schedule was fully booked up until the August 8 polls.
On Wednesday, July 5th, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju released a statement announcing the president’s absence saying;
“This debate is being organized through advertisements in the media by some people we do not know. They went ahead to give the dates of the debate with no consultation with the president. They have not contacted State House or the party. We do not know what the ground rules are and we won’t participate.”
Mr Tuju further added;
“This whole thing smells of conmanship. Because at the bare minimum they were supposed to get in touch with the campaign to fix a day. On whose behalf are the organisers acting, and what mandate do they have to organize the debate?”
Jubilee Party Vice Chairman, David Murathe also released a statement confirming that Uhuru would indeed be absent from the debate.
“We are not even aware of the rules of engagement. So let them do it without him,” Murathe said.
However, the Jubilee Party VC David Murathe said that the president was available to answer questions from the public on live TV.
“He has many channels through which he can engage Kenyans on various issues and will not be drawn into a shouting match as we witnessed in the Nairobi debate. This is beneath him,” Murathe said.
Moments after the Jubilee bigwigs announced their leader’s boycott of the debate, ODM leader Raila Odinga also declared his absence.
NASA chief publicist Salim Lone made the news known via a press statement. Mr Lone said that the NASA flag bearer could not attend the debate due to its current format and stipulation.
However, he said that the NASA Presidential Campaign Secretariat has implored the president to make himself available for a face off with Raila in order to discuss matters concerning Kenyans.
The debate organizers, Debates Media Limited, now stand to lose millions as the future of the debate seems bleak with the absence of the top two contenders.
Alliance for Real Change (ARC) presidential candidate Abduba Dida had previously dragged the debate organisers to court requesting the cancellation of the debate.
Dida argued that it was unfair to match up aspirants who had garnered over 5% of popularity per opinion polls and those who had not.
Debate Media says it stands to lose KSh 300 million in advertising and investment cash should the debate be cancelled.
With the two main contenders out, Digital Media is yet to announce if the debate will continue with other interested aspirants which now include; Cyrus Jirongo of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Ekuru Aukot of Thirdway Alliance, and Independent candidates Joseph Nyagah, Michael Wainaina and Japheth Kavinga.
A separate debate featuring only the running mates is slated to hold on July 17th.