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Kenyan election hopefuls 'disrespect' voters in televised no-show, says solo debater

Muthiora Kariara, independent candidate for deputy president.
Muthiora Kariara, independent candidate for deputy president. Photo via

Candidates for Kenya’s vice presidency must apologise to the nation for not showing up to a televised election debate and “disrespecting” the Kenyan people, according to the only contender to take part. Muthiora Kariara was the only running mate for the August polls who took part in Monday’s debate alongside two moderators and the audience.


“That was a mark of utter disrespect to the people of Kenya who had anticipated to hear from them and what they intend to do for Kenya,” Kariara told RFI. The candidate for deputy president, who is running with independent presidential candidate Japheth Kaluyu, said the two main frontrunners in the race had shown Kenyans a lack of courtesy in not showing up.

Q&A: Muthiora Kariara

“People are saying they want leaders who show up for duty,” said Kariara by telephone on Tuesday. “Leaders must be ready to account at any time and in a forum such as the one that was afforded yesterday, it’s wrong for them not to show up,” he said, referring to incumbent deputy president William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka of the opposition National Super Alliance.

Kariara was surrounded by five empty podiums and spent the whole hour fielding questions on his manifesto. “I think I did a good job because the response we have received so far indicates that Kenyans agree with our proposals and they will support us,” he said.

The solo debate session was particularly useful in helping to persuade undecided voters, according to the independent candidate.

“I have received tremendous support from people who had up to yesterday not decided who they would vote for and now they’re saying they’ll vote for Japheth Kaluyu,” said Kariara, who’s a former banker.

It is not entirely clear why the other candidates did not take part with some voicing objections to the debate format and other reports indicating that some candidates arrived late at the Catholic University of East Africa venue.

The debate organisers had decided on a two-tier structure to the format with minor and major candidates holding separate sessions. And although Kariara was critical of Ruto and Musyoka, he was more forgiving of the other minor candidates who did not take part.

“It’s not that the other candidates showed up late, they were waiting for confirmation from the debate organisers that we were only going to have a one tier debate,” he said. “I have utmost respect for them, because they actually showed up at the event and the organisers should have given them the opportunity to audition for Kenyans.”

Kenyans go to the polls on 8 August with incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta up against veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, head of the National Super Alliance (NASA), as well as six other candidates.

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