The Star (Nairobi)

20 February 2013

Kenya: Uhuru Pulls Out of Final TV Debate

Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta will skip the second national debate claiming moderator's questions painted him in bad light. ( Resource: Kenyan Candidate to Skip Presidential Debate

TEAM Uhuru have written to the organising committee of the presidential debate saying that the Jubilee presidential candidate will not be able to participate in the next TV debate on Monday.

However they requested the opportunity to meet the committee and explain why their candidate cannot participate. Team Uhuru feels that their candidate was unfairly treated in the first debate on February 11.

Yesterday here were contradictory signals coming out of the Raila Odinga camp on whether he would attend. One senior campaign member said the Cord presidential candidate was also reconsidering whether to participate in the second presidential debate on Monday.

He felt it was difficult to have a meaningful debate with so many candidates on stage. He also complained that the last debate was too long and some candidates were allowed to get away with wild allegations.

However another Cord official said the Prime Minister would participate in the debate. "Definitely Raila will be there. We are already in preparations. We have set aside the whole of Monday for the debate," said the official.

On February 11 the eight candidates faced each other on live television for the first time in Kenya's history.

The other candidates in the debate were Narc- Kenya's Martha Karua, Eagle Alliance's Peter Kenneth, RBK's James Ole Kiyapi, ARC's Mwalimu Abduba Dida, Safina's Paul Muite and Amani's Musalia Mudavadi.

Next Monday's debate will be presided over by NTV's Joe Ageyo and Citizen's Uduak Amimo. Yesterday Kenneth, Karua and Paul Muite confirmed they will attend the debate. "Kenyans should be given a chance to know all of us inside out," said Kenneth.

Team Uhuru was unhappy with how NTV'S Linus Kaikai moderated the debate and his "obsession with ICC". The team accused the moderator of allowing Raila to escape public scrutiny over the Triton, maize and Kazi kwa Vijana scandals.

They said that Mudavadi should have been scrutinized over his alleged involvement in Goldenberg scandal while Peter Kenneth should have been questioned over alleged financial impropriety at KFF and Kenya-Re when he headed the two institutions.

Team Uhuru said Karua's moral standing and self-declared commitment to family values should also have been scrutinized.

Safina candidate Muite, according to team Uhuru, should have explained an alleged Sh20 million payment from Goldenberg architect Kamlesh Pattni in the 1990s.

Kiyiapi should have been challenged over the misappropriation of the Free Primary and Free Day Secondary Education funds during his tenure as PS, according to Team Uhuru.

"Unfortunately, the moderators only chose to introduce the ICC "elephant" and thereby create a stage on which the other candidates could gang up and ruthlessly attack Uhuru Kenyatta as if they were themselves above both blame and suspicion. This was anything but a level playing field and smacked of mob psychology," said Team Uhuru in their memorandum to the organizing committee

During the last debate, Uhuru appeared caught off guard by moderator Linus Kaikai's question on how practical it would be for him to run the country from the Hague if elected. Uhuru's trial is due to start on April 11.

Uhuru only managed to talk about the possibility of the trial being moved to Tanzania. Uhuru admitted that the charges against him are a "personal challenge."

"I know it will present serious challenges to run our country by Skype from the Hague," Raila then claimed. Raila also goofed by telling the nation that he had never really changed parties. Social commentators said it amounted to a plain lie.

At the very least, Raila has changed parties four times- from Ford Kenya to NDP, to Kanu, to LDP and then to ODM.

These flaws and goofs notwithstanding, Uhuru topped an Ipsos Synovate poll on the performance in the debate. Scoring 37 per cent, he was followed by Raila at 23 per cent, Peter Kenneth 15 per cent, Martha Karua 8 per cent, Musalia Mudavadi and Abduba Duda 4 per cent each, Paul Muite 2 per cent and James Kiyiapi 1 per cent.

However 24 per cent of those who watched said they had changed their mind after the debate. "Does this mean the debates will have an influence in the elections? I think yes, but a little. And therefore before the next debate we may see the candidates preparing themselves more thoroughly," Ipsos researcher Tom Wolf said while releasing the poll.

Kenneth won the tribalism question, Uhuru the security and crime, Karua health, Uhuru ICC, Raila party politics, and Kiyiapi education.

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