By Jane Nambi
The first Kenya presidential debate was held yesterday moderated by television journalists, Julie Gichuru and Linus Kaikai in a private school near Nairobi’s national park.
There are eight candidates vying for the Kenyan presidency of whom are Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister, and his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi (Amani), Martha Karua (Narc Kenya), Peter Kenneth (Eagle), James ole Kiyiapi (RBK), Paul Muite (Safina) and Mohamed Abduda Dida (ARK).
Moderator, Kaikai asked the first question focusing on tribalism in politics. He asked Kenyatta and Odinga for their perceptions on the role of tribalism in politics highlighting the fact that their campaigns were exploiting traditional tribal animosities. However, both Kenyatta and Odinga rejected the claims
Kenyatta described tribalism as a cancer saying, “Tribalism is a cancer that has afflicted this country for a very long time.” while Odinga described it as “a disease of the elite”. Kenyatta is at the time facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his hand in the post-election violence that marred Kenya in 2007. Kakai asked Kenyatta how he was going to do both things at the time, running for presidency, ruling the country and fighting off the charges.
Replying, Kenyatta said, “The job I seek is going to be given by the people of Kenya … who full well know the personal issues I am confronted with,” he said. “I will be able to handle the issue of clearing our names… while at the same time ensuring that the business of government continues.”
Credit was given to the only woman standing for the seat of president in the country, Martha Karua.
Issues such as public finances, education, health and corruption were debated about in the first ever presidential debate in the country. Candidates also debated about the issue of Mijingo island which is being disputed by both Kenya and Uganda.
Some Kenyans criticized the debate saying that having all eight candidates made the format too cumbersome. Polls give Odinga a slight lead over Kenyatta – 46% against 40% in the most recent survey – with the other candidates polling 5% or less.