The historic debate between and among presidential candidates in Kenya for 2013 elections just ended and a few observations can be made about the debate:
First, the two horses in the race, namely, Raila and Uhuru held their own. There was an expectation that Uhuru would crumble under persistent attack from other candidates but this did not come to pass, namely, Uhuru came under no attack at all. Raila, on the other hand, did not make any mistakes some were afraid he might. Instead, he came across as presidential and handled all the questions with command of the issues, which is all that was expected of him to maintain his front-runner status.
Second, Second Tier candidates Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth equally held their grounds with Peter Kenneth emerging as the more credible and worth watching for a future presidency than the rest of the pack in that group. HMK as I call her, or Martha Karua once again demonstrated she is both blessed and cursed in that she’s articulate and can make her case well but comes across as cold and detached from what she’s actually saying. That’s a problem she simply must find a way to deal with if she’s to be promoted from Second Tier to battle in Tier One next time around.
Third, Third Tier candidates Prof. Ole Kiyiapi and Paul Muite really did not hold their own but managed to get off the stage with only Paul Muite making a fool of himself in his shameless efforts to cast the ICC issue in new terms–a line of attack only recently ventured into by Uhuru, namely, that both Kibaki and Raila should be charged at the ICC. Never mind that the ICC OCP concluded there was no evidence to charge the two but in Paul Muite’s mind, they are guilty and therefore should be charged. It wasn’t clear whether Paul Muite is seeking a job as president or one as one of Uhuru’s lawyers but he did a poor job for making a case for either.
Fourth, the ICC issue is clearly key in the 2013 election and may turn out to be the most single important issue, judging by how it was handled in the debate.
Fifth, it was clear even as Uhuru held his own, he still doesn’t understand the ICC issue in all of its connotations and implication not only on his candidature but as to the country as a whole in the unlikely event he is elected.
Sixth, all candidates, tried to give canned responses to the question of how they would deal with the question of tribalism but only Raila had a convincing answer backed with his record on the issue. The rest just danced around the question and provided what you would expect priests and other clerics to give as an answer to this ugly elephant in the middle of our political room.
Finally, but not least, Sixth and last Tier candidate Dida made the case why such candidates should never be allowed in serious debate. I know there are some who would go gaga over his cheap utterances devoid of substance but in the end we want serious issues debated by only the most serious of candidates not individuals like this who clearly only seek 15 minute of fame and you can see how desperately he tried to plant rehearsed lines in the hopes they’ll be remembered tomorrow. They won’t.
One debate down, one more to go and overall the organizers get good grades for pulling this one off without a glitch even though the moderators could do better next time; they didn’t do poorly but there are areas I am sure even they would agree could have been done better.