Raila Odinga: We are not cowards for skipping presidential debate

Raila Odinga

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses a campaign rally at Kianjai trading centre in Meru County on July 26, 2022. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition flag bearer Raila Odinga yesterday stormed Meru County where he received the blessings of the Njuri Ncheke, and defended his decision to skip a debate with his main rival, Deputy President William Ruto.

Mr Odinga met the Njuri Ncheke at the Nchiru shrine where he was adorned in traditional regalia and declared a Meru elder.

Speaking at Kianjai and Maili Tatu markets in Meru after being decorated as a Meru elder by the elders, Mr Odinga said the Deputy President was not committed to the fight against corruption.

“Our opponents have been taunting us that we are cowards and are not ready for the election. But I cannot debate him. When the government fights corruption, he has been saying it is weaponising the war on graft. The only place I can meet him is in the ballot,” Mr Odinga said.

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In efforts to solidify his base in the vote-rich Meru County, Mr Odinga also called for a truce between Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, who are key Azimio coalition politicians in the region.

Mr Munya has in the past insisted that he doesn't support Mr Murungi despite them being in one coalition.

At the Njuri Ncheke shrine, Mr Odinga asked the two political rivals to shake hands and work together going forward. This is the third time Mr Odinga is attempting to reconcile the two politicians.

Mr Odinga and his running mate Martha Karua were accompanied by Cotu leader Francis Atwoli, Mr Raphael Tuju, Mr Peter Kenneth, Mr Junet Mohamed and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.

He said it is only by slaying corruption that Kenya can achieve economic liberation.

The Azimio leaders hit out at Dr Ruto for attacking Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti for doing his work.

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“Kinoti’s work is to deal with criminals and avert crime. Now that he has arrested those who are suspected of interfering with the election, they attack him. We cannot support anyone who fights our own,” Agriculture CS Peter Munya said.

Ms Karua said they are keen on prioritising the interests of Kenyans if elected.

“Our record as defenders of the people is in the public. We want to take the presidency so that we can continue with this good work,” Ms Karua said.

Mr Odinga said he had kicked off his final leg of the campaigns including Nyeri on Wednesday, Nakuru, Machakos, Suswa, Eldoret, Kiambu, Kisii, Kakamega, Kisumu, and Mombasa before ending the campaign in Nairobi on August 6.

Mr Odinga also pledged various goodies for Meru County if elected president.

“In the first 100 days, we will elevate the Igembe campus of the Chuka University into a constituent college. We will also look into the stalled roads within the first 100 days,” he said.

In their tradition of endorsing one presidential candidate, Njuri Ncheke elders led by chairman Linus Kathera declared Mr Odinga their preferred choice.

“No one has become president in this country without having received the blessings of Njuri Ncheke at this shrine. We have hereby blessed Mr Odinga and his running mate Martha Karua to go as one and become the president of Kenya,” Mr Silas Gitiye, Njuri Ncheke cultural director said.

Mr Munya said the meeting with the Njuri Ncheke elders meant Mr Odinga has been embraced by the council.

“The core mandate of Njuri Ncheke is to protect children, resources and our culture. We are here to conclude the matter of who our preferred candidate is. We cannot support the other candidate because he keeps fighting us,” Mr Munya said.

Governor Murungi said Njuri Ncheke had opted to back Mr Odinga because he is committed to protecting the interests of the community.

“There is no doubt that the next president of the Republic of Kenya will be Raila Odinga. We are sure of Mr Odinga’s commitment to enhance devolution,” Mr Murungi said.

While commenting on the tragic Nithi bridge accident where 35 people perished on Sunday, Mr Odinga said his administration would redesign the road if elected.

“We are saddened that many Kenyans have died at the bridge and will seek to make the road safe. We will redesign the bridge to make it safer,” he said.

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