The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has been faulted for temporarily denying journalists access to the venue where the coalition’s presidential flagbearer William Ruto was crowned on Tuesday.
Azimio La Umoja movement, which is headed by Dr Ruto’s main challenger in the August 9 election, Mr Raila Odinga, has termed the move undemocratic.
The criticism was in reference to the confusion at the UDA national delegates convention (NDC) at the Kasarani Indoor Arena after journalists were barred from covering the delegates’ resolutions.
The media practitioners were asked to step out of the room, before being allowed to resume their coverage of the event about an hour later.
According to a statement released by Prof Makau Mutua, the spokesperson of Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign, the incident implied secrecy on the part of UDA and amounted to denying Kenyans the opportunity to review their decisions about the party.
Lights of democracy off
“Today, Kenyans and the world witnessed how a Ruto-UDA regime would switch off the lights of democracy if – God forbid – it ever came to power. In its most important public function to date – deliberations on the coronation of Mr Ruto as UDA's presidential candidate – Mr Ruto decided to remove the media from the venue where those deliberations were done,” said Prof Mutua.
He juxtaposed the incident with Azimio’s public nomination of Mr Odinga a week ago, arguing that nothing was kept away from the public.
“The media is the eyes of the people, and it must be allowed to cover all public events absent of any concerns for national security. But for over two hours today, Mr Ruto and his circle of UDA apparatchiks shut the Kenyan people out of a decision that's central to democracy,” he said.
While drumming up support for Odinga, Prof Mutua said that the process of choosing a party’s flag bearer needs to be open, accountable, and transparent.
“It cannot, and must not, be done in darkness where a small cabal of elites and oligarchs choose the presidential candidate. It’s a sad day for democracy but we at Azimio aren't surprised that Mr Ruto and UDA reconfirmed their anti-democratic DNA. That's why the Kenyan people should choose Mr Odinga and Azimio in August to take this country forward instead of backwards to dictatorship and one-man rule,” said Prof Mutua.