Presidential candidates hold televised debate in Kenya

By IndepthAfrica
In East Africa
Feb 11th, 2013
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For the first time in Kenya’s electioneering history, a debate by presidential candidates will be aired on all radio and television stations Monday to test the candidates health, education, security and foreign policies.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the flag-bearer of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Coalition and Musalia Mudavadi, leading the third force, will debate themselves along with three other candidates.

The debate will take place before a select audience of 200 people at the Brookhouse school in Nairobi, where the six front-runners will articulate their pre-election policies.

Kenya’s presidential election, a hot contest to be decided by some 15 million voters on 4 March, is already proving to be a mixture of choices determined by tribal loyalties, a contest over the urban voters and a pitch for more undivided voters.

The presidential candidates have mostly laid out policies putting emphasis on building a strong economy, creating jobs for the youth, tackling rampant insecurity through the adequate arming of the police and fixing agriculture.

Francis Munywoki, Director of Operations at the Presidential Debate Centre, said some 44 million people worldwide, including 21 million local television viewers and radio listeners, would tune into the two-hour debate.

Apart from Odinga, Kenyatta and Mudavadi, former top civil servant James ole Kiyiapi, leading the Restore and Build Kenya party, Martha Karua, the candidate of the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NARK-Kenya) and Peter Kenneth, of the Eagle Coalition, will also feature in the country’s first-ever televised presidential debate.

Julie Gichuru, a television anchor who would co-host the first debate, said it would be an opportunity to allow the candidates to articulate their policies in a controlled environment and on an issue-based platform.

The debate premiers on the second day of the official 21-day campaign period, and comes against the backdrop of the launching by the main candidates of their campaign manifestos.

The Kenyatta Coalition has pledged interest-free loans to the youth to finance business start-ups, promised computers and laptops to every child from their first day in school and a robust economy for Kenya.

Kenneth pledges a radically re-energised security apparatus and the police that would expand national development across regions where development has been retarded by lack of proper roads, cattle rustling and food insecurity.

Mudavadi, who launched his party manifesto in Nairobi, Sunday, said his key priorities were to ensure national security, national unity, peace and stability.

Mudavadi is perceived to enjoy the political backing of the incumbent administration, but only former President Daniel Arap Moi has so far offered his public endorsement.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEBC), Mr. Isaak Hassan, has expressed his disagreement with the exclusion of two of the eight presidential candidates, Paul Muite and Abduba Dida, from the debate.

He said it was ”unequal” to exclude the two candidates, adding that all the eight candidates had and do meet all the legal requirements to contest the elections.

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