By Florence Gichoya
On February 11th, 2013 Kenya made history when it held its first presidential debate. The event had been organized jointly by the Kenyan media houses including TV and radio stations. The debate was broadcast live and in over 40 fm stations and over 7 TV channels. The debate moderators were renowned Kenyan journalists Julie Gichuru and Linus Kaikai.
The initial plan was to have six presidential aspirants in the debate. However Paul Muite (a presidential candidate who was not included in the debate) cited discrimination by the media against the provision of the Constitution that allows all presidential candidates equal coverage during the campaign period. He got a court order a few hours to the debate and the organizers had no choice but to comply.
The presidential candidates were Mohamed Dida (Alliance for Real Change party), Prof James Ole Kiyapi (Restore and Build Kenya party), Peter Kenneth (Kenya National Congress party), Musalia Mudavadi (United Democratic Forum part), Uhuru Kenyatta (The National Alliance Party), Martha Karua (Narc Kenya party), Raila Odinga (Orange Democratic Movement party) and Paul Muite (Safina Party)
The first topic was on tribalism. It was interesting to watch all candidates defend themselves that they are not tribalists and how it affects the country negatively. Raila said that tribalism is a problem of the elite; Uhuru affirmed that it is a cancer that has caused destruction in the country.
Peter Kenneth said that tribalism was never taught in schools when he grew up. Martha Karua told Kenyans that there is no difference between a hungry Luo and a hungry Kikuyu. She said that nobody gets food from their tribe but from the sweat of their brow.
They further tackled the issue of ICC (International Criminal Court). Uhuru Kenyatta with three other Kenyans are facing charges at the ICC on the role they played in 2007/2008 post election violence. Uhuru was put on the spot on how he intends to handle the case and still govern the country. Martha Karua and Mohammed Dida said that he ought to step aside and allow investigation. Uhuru Kenyatta asserted that the presidency of Kenya is an elective post and not an appointment and it was upto the Kenyan people to decide who should govern them.
They second part of the debate was on education, health and security. The candidates answered questions from the audience. Generally the candidates were prepared and they articulated issues with decorum.
It is a new dawn for Kenya; I believe a day will come when Kenyans will be voting purely on basis of candidates’ integrity and development records and not on basis of politicians’ tribe.
All the presidential candidates committed to promote peace, accept the elections results and in case of any complaints they will use the courts and avoid violence.
All said and done the debate was a success and Kenyans will now have to decide who to vote for in the coming general elections.