The New Times (Kigali)

9 February 2013

Kenya: Presidential Debate Will Be Great Entertainment

The stage is set for the country's first ever presidential debate.   ( Resource: Kenya to Hold Presidential Debate

opinion

There are times when you see something in the media and your head is filled with lots of cynical and pessimistic thoughts. May be this is just the way folks in the media are cut out but I do have some interesting stories to share.

In Tanzania for example, the process of issuing national identity cards was launched. In typical "African Big Man" style, Pres. Jakaya Kikwete was the first to receive an ID and he was followed by 50 other representatives from various organisations including former leaders Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa.

Is it just me or are our politicians too predictable and hypocritical? How else do we explain the fact that those with diplomatic passports, obscene salaries, SUVs and armed security would still want to be the first to receive something as basic as an identification card?

Tanzania plans to roll out the Ids to the rest of the population by 2015. Being a Ugandan this target immediately compels me to pray for the Tanzanians since I registered in 2010 for a voter's card and consequently a national ID but I am yet to see any of the two in three years later.

In Uganda the deal to make national Ids characteristically became another cash cow for the corrupt officials who only managed to provide a mere 400 IDs after receiving billions of shillings. Now there is talk of the lucrative deal moving from the Internal Affairs ministry to the Defence ministry in a classic tale of "it's our turn to eat."

By the way did you know that Tanzania's national IDs are materialising a whole 50 years since their parliament also known as Ubunge (yes I am working on my Swahili sanifu), passed the law mandating the programme in 1963! This fact offers hope to Ugandans that may be our cards will come after some time even if it is 50 years.

Despite all the pro-EAC rhetoric we are often fed on, I have seen one too many reports of Tanzanians, Ugandans and lately Rwandans complaining about trade practices by our Kenyan brothers.

Sometimes it is do with Tanzanian flowers for export through Jomo Kenyatta International airport, other times it is to do with barring Uganda from using railway transport for bulk cargo. Either way, it is proof that Non-Tariff Barriers are still with us despite all the sweet talk we get from EAC summits.

On Friday 8 February, Uganda's Daily Monitor carried a headline, "Uganda, Tz confirm plans to revive southern route." I think I have lost count on the number of times I have heard this song. The southern route in question here is the Dar es Salaam port to Uganda route.

There is no doubt that one of the things keeping the EAC region behind is the over reliance on the Mombasa port and the neglect of the water transport on Lake Victoria. Each year we hear of plans to change this but the implementation remains a mere promise.

As we head into the new another week the biggest event may as well turn out to be the long awaited presidential debate in Kenya. The debate will be aired live across eight television and 34 radio stations on Monday. As if that is not enough, Google will stream the debate online.

The two-hour debate which will take place at the Brookhouse International School's auditorium starting at 7:30pm (EA Standard Time) will have six candidates; Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth and James ole Kiyiapi. NTV's Linus Kaikai and Citizen TV's Julie Gichuru will be the moderators.

During the debate, issues of governance and social services, including health, education, security and resource management will be handled. Questions have been pooled from various sources including SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter.

After this, a second debate will be held on February 25 tackling issues like economy, land, devolution and foreign policy. The second debate will be moderated by Joe Ageyo (KTN) and Uduak Amimo (Royal Media Services).

I am however not sure why candidates like Paul Muite and Mwalimu Mohamed Abduda Dida were left out or better still why the debate was not narrowed to maybe the top two contenders. To be honest the race is strictly between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.

Those with no chance of clinching the job will simply be baggage to what was supposed to be the Kenyan version of an Obama Vs Romney debate. Meanwhile let me clear my schedule and order some popcorn.

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