Organisers of presidential debates that were to start on Monday evening have dismissed claims that they did not consult candidates who have pulled out of the function.
They say members of their steering committee have been in constant communication with the candidates and that the teams attached to the various aspirants have regularly been updated on the details of the debate.
Debates Media Limited, a conglomerate of various media houses, is the company that plans to bring debates on July 10 and 24.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, it says that consultations with the various candidates started long before it was announced that debates would take place.
“We wish to clarify that members of the Steering Committee on the Presidential Debates have been in constant communication with the various campaign teams even before the announcement was made in May,” the company said in the statement signed by Wachira Waruru, the chairman of the Steering Committee on the Presidential Debates.
UHURU, RAILA WITHDRAW
“Last week, all the presidential campaign teams were invited for a pre-debate briefing in line with our guidelines,” stated Mr Wachira.
While confirming President Uhuru Kenyatta’s withdrawal from the event, Jubilee Party’s secretary-General Raphael Tuju said the decision was taken because it “is being organised through advertisements in the media by some people we do not know”.
“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,” he said.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga who is the flag-bearer for the National Super Alliance (Nasa) shortly afterwards announced that he would also not show up for the debate.
Nasa senior adviser Salim Lone said Mr Odinga will not participate under the current format.
Later in the day, other candidates in the race also announced their withdrawal, citing various reasons.
Debates Media Limited says it will continue engaging with the presidential candidates on the way forward.
“In the next few hours, we will be reaching out to all the campaign teams to clarify the guidelines and answer any questions they may have with regard to our formats which have been drawn in accordance with international best practice,” said Mr Waruru, also the managing director of Royal Media Services.
MAKE A CHOICE
Mr Waruru noted that plans to have the debate at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa were complete, adding that Debates Media Limited was fully committed on its mission.
“We wish to assure the country that we remain committed to our pledge of delivering robust debates that will not only give the candidates an opportunity to articulate their respective visions, but also accord the citizens a chance to make informed choices on August 8,” he stated.