President Kenyatta's unexplained absence gave veteran opposition politician Raila Odinga 90 minutes to field questions about his policies and attack the government.

The presidential election television debate was the second ever held in the country after a similar one in 2013.
The presidential election television debate was the second ever held in the country after a similar one in 2013.

Kenyan opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Monday fielded questions alone on stage after his rival, President Uhuru Kenyatta, failed to show up for a debate between the two.

Odinga, who is the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance coalition, said his top priorities if elected in the August 8 general election would be to lower food prices and rent and tackle youth unemployment.

"First is the issue of putting food on the table, reducing the cost of living for the people. This is our priority number one. We address the issues of flour, so that we can lower the prices of maize flour [and] sugar," he said.

He said to lower rent he would enforce the existing rent restrictions act. "This law is meant to protect the poor from exploitation by the landlords," Odinga said.

The office of Kenyatta, who is running for a second and final five-year term in office, gave no explanation for his absence.

Kenyans are due to choose on August 8 legislators and local representatives for the first time since 2013, when the elections passed peacefully after the opposition challenged the results in court.

The solo debate comes as several pre-election polls show an extremely tight race between the historical rivals. It was unclear if the lack of a proper presidential debate would sway voters.

Violent past

Odinga is leading a rare coalition of opposition heavyweights, the National Super Alliance (NASA) in his fourth bid to be president.

"I lost once," he said as the audience laughed, in reference to his claim that elections in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him.

Many observers agree with Odinga's view that the 2007 election was stolen from him, triggering widespread politically motivated tribal violence which left more than 1,100 dead.

The violence of 2007 looms over Kenya's politics a decade on, and Odinga has already repeatedly claimed there are plans afoot to rig the election.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies