A section of the Team Uhuru campaign team has expressed discontent at the manner in which the question on the International Criminal Court was handled during Monday’s historic presidential debate.
While insisting their candidate Uhuru Kenyatta was prepared for the debate and event he question, several Team Uhuru campaign members claimed he had been ‘ambushed’ and the question was aimed at discrediting the Jubilee Alliance presidential candidate.
They alleged that the ICC question was not listed among the topics that they or their candidate expected to be asked during the debate unlike the other participants.
They claimed that while Uhuru handled the question well, he would have done better if he had received prior notice that the issue would be raised during the debate which was moderated by Linus Kaikai of NTV and Julie Gichuru of Citen TV.
“Only Julie and I had an idea of the questions that we were going to ask the candidates. We did not share any of these questions with any other person,” said Kaikai ysterday.
The question came at a time when some Western envoys were sending signals of likely “consequences” in case Uhuru and his running-mate William Ruto win the election afterÂ March 4.
Uhuru appeared ill-prepared for the question on how he would run government and at the same time attend trial at The Hague. UhuruÂ attempted to exonerate his campaign from suggestions that his campaign was ethnic-based and said the alliance had the support of people across the country.
He reiterated what he has been saying on his campaign trail â€”that a vote for him and his running mate William Ruto would be a ‘referendum’ on what Kenyans think of the ICC and the charges that they are facing.
“Kenyans are fully aware of the charges I am facing. It is my democratic right topresent myself to the people of Kenya. If they so choose to elect me, it means they have confidence in me to continue doing my job as President while handling the cases,â€ he said.
Yesterday public opinion was divided over who won the presidential debate with many observers saying the candidates had been ‘too cautious’.
The debate was the first in independent Kenya, pitting eight presidential candidates who are all seeking to take over from President Kibaki who is completing his two term limit after the General Election. They were Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, James ole Kiyiapi, Paul Muite and Mohammed Abdula Dida.
A lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s political science department Dr Adams Oloo said there were no clear winners or losers in the debate as each candidate gave a good account of himself. He however was concerned that the debate took ‘too long.”
Scheduled to last for a maximum of two hours, the debate took three and a half hours. Alliance for Real Change candidate Dida,38, who entered the Presidential race late provided some much needed levity with his brand of common sense couched in humorous asides to the other candidates or when expounding on his policies.
Kakai said Dida’s ‘common touch’ endeared him to the audience in the Brookhouse school auditorium and possibly the millions of Kenyans who watched and listened to the debate. The debate was the second most trending item on twitter.
Another fringe candidate who together with Dida was brought into the debate after a court order was Safina’s Paul Muite. Muiteboldly stated that it was not possible for both Raila and President Kibaki to convince many people that they knew nothing about the 2007/8 post election violence. He promised to investigate the two if he was elected President.
The 67-year old senior counsel ‘put up a good fight as he had nothing to lose,’ according to lawyer Evans Monari. Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani Coalition came through as ‘composed but aloof.’ He looked ‘colorless’ for most of the time but became animated during the second half of the debate when he started expounding on his health and education policies.
The Eagle coalition candidate 47 year old Peter Kenneth surprised many when he admitted that his Kenya National Congress was being supported by a German foundation to develop its ideology.
On the ICC issue, Kenneth said he preferred defeating Uhuru in a straight race. “I will go with the presumption of innocence until Â proven guilty. I want to defeat my brother fairly,” he said.
He indicated a clear understanding of the health and education issues but did not explain specific programs or policies to address these concerns. Raila, 68, fended off criticism from his colleagues that he had done little during the time he has served as co-principal.
Raila blamed the political elite for negative ethnicity and tribalism and ‘Ethnicity is a disease of the elite.Â Equity in the distribution of resources and unity at the national level will address tribalism.Â When a candidate goes on the screen that an election has been won because of the voter registration, then
tribalism is a disease of the elite. They are fighting for resources. Equity of resources in the country is the remedy,” said Raila.
James Ole Kiyapi’s gave a narrative about growing up in an impoverished and marginalized Masai community and his struggles to go to school. His twodecades in public service was evident as he expounded on how an RBK administration will deal with issues of governance and government expenditure.
Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua spoke passionately against negative ethnicity and tribalism which she said had continued to dog the country’s politics. She accused Raila and Uhuru of being ‘in denial’ when they both denied their current rivalry was a replay of what happened between their parents in the 1960s.
A second and final debate is scheduled for February 25th when it is anticipated the candidates will be asked to explain their policies and programs on among others, land. Ipsos Synovate was running a poll yesterday to determine Kenyans views on who carried the day.-Star