12 February 2013

Kenya: First Presidential Debate Held in Kenya

Ahead of Kenya's general elections next month, a televised presidential debate was held yesterday at the Hogwarts-esque Brook House International School in front of a live audience.

Millions of Kenyans watched on television, listened to their radios while others followed the live stream on Youtube as candidates engaged each other.

It was a polite, somewhat halting start to a three-and-a-half-hour marathon that gave Kenyans a chance to judge their prospective leaders on their words and policies rather than on who they are - a rarity in a country where politics has traditionally been intertwined with tribal identity, and where politicians often campaign on an "us versus them" platform.

The debate was widely perceived as a positive political milestone, the civil and polite tone seemed worlds away from rising concern that Kenya may be heading for a repeat, or worse, of the politically motivated tribal violence that exploded after the last presidential vote in 2007 and that claimed around 1,200 lives.

More than 14 million Kenyans will go to the polls to elect a president, MPs and county representatives on 4 March in an election that is one of the most complicated and crucial in the 50 years since Kenya achieved independence in 1963.

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