The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Why Uhuru Will Not Be At Today's Debate

opinion

This week started with the news that Uhuru Kenyatta, Jubilee's presidential candidate, had decided to pull out of the 2nd Presidential debate that will be taking place this evening. This is very surprising, especially as the polls indicate he did very well in the first debate.

In a confidential letter from the TNA party his team said that their team is very unhappy with the way the last debate went as far as their candidate is concerned. They are especially upset by the way he was questioned about the ICC; including the expression by the moderator that the ICC was 'a large elephant in the room'.

It is their view it was unfair for the moderator to ask Uhuru Kenyatta questions on the ICC while not asking other candidates questions on allegations tied to their names.

They do not seem to understand that their case is special; that they are the only ones whose candidate(s) are actually in court, rather than the subject of rumors and conjecture.

They are also not just in any other court of law, but in an international one. They are also not just suspects, but indictees; individuals who a competent court of law has analyzed evidence on, and decided that there is enough evidence for them to be charged.

Finally they are not in court for ordinary crimes, but for the worst crimes in the world. These are extremely unique circumstances, especially as it is not just their presidential candidate who is in this situation, but also his running mate!

So when TNA's secretary general tries to imply that the ICC situation is similar to allegations of fraud tagged onto other presidential candidates, I can only wonder at his understanding of unique.

Jubilee seems not to understand that it is not about whether their candidates are innocent or guilty, but the circumstances of these candidates.

Kenya is the first country in the world where its citizens are considering putting an ICC indictee into the highest office in the land. In other countries people become indictees after they are already president!

In addition Jubilee must realize that their candidate is asking Kenyan citizens for a job. When you need a job, especially one with the kind of perks we give our presidents, and we are the ones with the power to give it to you, the least you should do is allow us to ask you questions on what kind of person you are.

You must also allow us to question you on any personal issues you have around you, where we are worried that such personal issues might interfere with your ability to deliver on the job you need from us. That is why Kenyans are fascinated on the ICC.

To simplify the issue; Kenyans know that it is human nature where one's freedom is threatened, to go to any length and use any means, to defend themselves.

We want to know how far Uhuru will go, should he make it to the presidency.

We are worried that he might use the immense powers of his new office to protect himself, as would be the natural direction for ordinary people.

Kenyans want these answers so that they know what to expect; for example, how would the international community react to this-sanctions? How would that affect the price of unga, paraffin, bus fare? These are pertinent questions tied to the ICC issue.

But I think there is more to Uhuru's refusal to attend this second debate. I personally do not believe that Uhuru would refuse to attend this second debate because of how he was handled in the first debate; we all accept he did very well.

I am persuaded that it has more to do with the topics to be discussed in this second debate.

Today's debate is expected to tackle the candidate's policies on economy, land, foreign policy and devolution.

In my opinion the Jubilee team realizes the challenges they will have with these four areas; how will they explain how they will grow the economy whilst having stated they can comfortably exist without our main trading blocs of Europe and America?

How will they explain their foreign policy when they might have to stop cooperating with the ICC, if they are to effectively deliver on the office of President?

On land; how will they explain their policies when they might be personally affected by implementation of the land policy?

On the issue of devolution, was Hon Uhuru Kenyatta not the one associated with the introduction of a financial management bill that tried to centralize the management of financial resources?

Is he the same man who has indicated support for County commissioners despite a court decision against them?

Doesn't the existence of County commissioners threaten the capacity of county governments to run themselves?

I think these are the real reasons why he has opted not to attend today's debate.

The writer is the director of political affairs at the Raila Odinga presidential campaign secretariat.

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