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Kenya holds single-candidate presidential ‘debate’

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto appeared alone at a presidential debate

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto appeared alone at a presidential debate Tuesday ahead of April 9 polls, after his main rival pulled out at the weekend.

Former prime minister Raila Odinga, 77, would not take part, his campaign team said Sunday, accusing Ruto, 55, of trying to avoid certain topics such as corruption.

Organisers said the event would still go ahead, and insisted the moderators would not share any of the questions with the candidates beforehand, hoping Odinga would change his mind.

But on Tuesday Ruto found himself alone on stage, opposite an empty pulpit, fielding questions from two journalists.

“My competitor is not here because he doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t have an agenda,” he alleged.

He “is not here because he doesn’t want to answer difficult questions.”

Odinga has made the battle against graft one of the main themes of his campaign, while Ruto has been accused of corruption in a case since last year.

Asked to respond to these allegations, the deputy president replied: “Any piece of land that I have is legally acquired.”

“I propose in my manifesto to deal firmly, squarely, institutionally with the fight against corruption,” he added.

Sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta cannot run again and has endorsed Odinga over his deputy of nine years after an acrimonious falling out.

Odinga’s spokesman said on Sunday that the former premier would instead take part in a televised town hall meeting in the capital Nairobi with “ordinary Kenyans”.