Another candidate, Professor George Wajackoyah, also did not participate, leaving another contender – David Mwaure – to face the questions alone, in the debate that was held on the same day.
A few days before the debate, Odinga had sent a statement through his campaign secretariat explaining that he would not appear because he cannot share the same podium with Ruto, describing him as a person who lacks integrity.
The former prime minister also accused Ruto of pressuring the moderators to avoid topics based on corruption and integrity.
“This is a man who has no regard for ethics, public morals or shame. It would be a mistake to reward such a person with a national debate,” Odinga said in a statement.
Our Position on the Presidential Debate. pic.twitter.com/mYQ0aJz6W3
— Prof Makau Mutua (@makaumutua) July 24, 2022
Despite this, Ruto turned up for the debate and answered questions from two moderators for 90 minutes, accusing his main competitor of staying away for fear of answering difficult questions.
“My competitor is not here because he doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t have an agenda,” Ruto said.
Asked about allegations of corruption and his thirst for acquiring property, especially land, Ruto dismissed the claims saying: “Any piece of land that I have is legally acquired.”
According to him, the war against corruption has been politicised and he is the victim. “Enough is enough,” he said.
He accused the current regime of undermining the judiciary by denying it funds to carry its functions in the fight against draft.
The Kenya Kwanza candidate however promised to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate all corruption cases and prosecute them in the court, if he wins the presidency.
Analyst and supporters say
Brian Wanyama, a political analyst, says Odinga missed an opportunity to articulate his issues to the voters during the debate, which he says turned out to be a question and answer session.
The debate was like a talk-show. Odinga’s absence was unfortunate
He also describes Ruto’s performance as below average because he lacked a challenger and did not clearly articulate his economic plan as was expected.
“The debate was like a talk-show. Odinga’s absence was unfortunate,” Wanyama tells The Africa Report.
George Maina, a Ruto supporter who watched the debate, says his candidate performed well and slams Odinga for not attending. “He feared Ruto. He should have attended,” he says.
However, for Vital Mugisho, an Odinga supporter, it was a wise move for his candidate not to attend the debate.
Mugisho describes Odinga as a statesman who cannot be subjected to insults. “I support Odinga for not attending. I don’t want him to be insulted on the stage,” he says.
Odinga’s own debate
Odinga has now planned his own debate with voters in Nairobi this week, at a town hall meeting that he says he will engage directly with the people and answer their questions on the promises he has made.
Speaking at a political rally on Wednesday, Odinga defended his stand on the debate with Ruto, telling supporters that he can meet his challenger at the ballot on 9 August.
In 2017, when Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta were vying for the presidency, they refused to engage Odinga in a presidential debate saying they wanted to engage the people directly and not through a debate.