The steering committee of the presidential debate has issued a terse statement over the failure by several presidential candidates’ running mates to attend the first tier of the contest.
Deputy president William Ruto of Jubilee Party and Nasa’s Kalonzo Musyoka both failed to turn up for the debate on Monday at Catholic University.
Among the fringe candidate’s, only one running mate, Mr Eliud Kariara, attended the debate that continued for 90 minutes as earlier planned.
Those who showed up later were denied access into the debating auditorium.
The steering committee gave an account of how they have been actively engaging all the candidates, saying that no one should feign ignorance or lack of consultation for failing to show up for the debate.
“The suggestion that the candidates did not know about these debates is therefore at best dishonest.
These debates have never been about individual candidates, they have never been about any one or two political parties,” the statement reads.
“The debates are driven by the enduring principle that the media is a watchdog for society and provides a platform for alternative visions to contend.
“This is why we committed to doing this debate whether one or two candidates chose to stay away.
We believe that as media, we have discharged our duty,” the statement adds.
The steering committee clarified that in June, it published the criteria for participation in the debates and drawing from international best practice determined that there would be two debates in one.
“This is the reason why this process could not have waited for the parties to declare who their presidential candidates would be.
Nevertheless, the steering committee relentlessly reached out to all campaign teams through formal letters and informal channels,” the statement says.
According the committee, there was an agreement that the second part of the debate would only involve the candidates with more than five per cent support in opinion polls, contrary to the fringe candidates’ assertions that it was meant to discriminate against them.
The committee explained that this approach was aimed at ensuring that Kenyans got an ample opportunity to hear from the candidates who stood a mathematical chance of ascending to the positions of president and deputy president.
“The committee wanted to be as inclusive as possible in the debates.
“This is why even the candidates with less than five per cent support were still scheduled to have their own debate.
“The first response to this criteria came from six presidential candidates who castigated it as discriminatory, insisting that they wanted to shared the stage with the other two candidates who were perceived as front runners,” the committee notes.