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Why Ruto’s camp is threatening to snub presidential debate

Deputy President William Ruto’s allies in Kenya Kwanza Alliance have indicated that the UDA party leader and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua, may skip the planned debates for presidential candidates and their running mates.

Leaders of the coalition have cited media bias for their stand, saying they were satisfied with the way the Nairobi gubernatorial debate featuring Senator Johnson Sakaja (UDA) and Jubilee party’s Polycarp Igathe was conducted early this week.

This even as the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) revealed in their latest media monitoring report that the DP’s media coverage has increased and overtaken that of his main opponent Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya Coalition.

The Deputy Presidential debate will be held on July 19th at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, with the Presidential Debate is slated for July 26th at the same venue.

On Saturday, UDA’s head of communications, Hussein Mohammed, said Ruto and Gachagua might not show up for the debates. Mr Mohammed said that they had advised their leaders on the matter but the final decision on whether or not to attend the debates rests with them.

“That advise was actually legitimized by a report of June by MCK that the other people were enjoying 61 per cent or so of coverage. It is interesting, funny and unbelievable that the MCK did not see a problem with that. Now a couple of days ago MCK issued another statement this time however without any report, any statistics trying to say that the numbers have changed,” Mr Mohammed said.

Mohammed also scoffed at a report released this week indicating that 49 per cent of journalists feel safer working with Mr Odinga against Dr Ruto’s 31 per cent.

According to MCK data from the first week of July 2022, Kenya Kwanza coalition flagbearer’s media coverage volumes stood at 46 per cent against Mr Odinga’s 45 per cent. The increase in DP Ruto’s media coverage was attributed to his coalition’s manifesto launch on June 30, 2022 and the criticism it received from his opponents.

During that period, the DP’s coalition received 14 per cent mention in print media compared to Mr Odinga’s 12 per cent. The data also shows that Dr Ruto enjoyed a 61 per cent coverage in radio against Mr Odinga’s 58 per cent. However, Mr Odinga enjoyed a 29 per cent TV coverage as compared to Ruto’s 26 per cent.

In the month of June media coverage report released by MCK, showed that the Azimio la Umoja coalition candidate’s coverage was at its highest peak in the period leading to and after the launch of the coalition’s manifesto.