17 July 2017

Kenya: Nasa Urges Uhuru to Change Stand On Presidential Debate

Photo: Jeff Angote/The Nation
Nasa flagbearer Raila Odinga during the debate for leading presidential candidates at Catholic University.

The National Super Alliance (Nasa) has called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to change his stand and agree to participate in the proposed Presidential Debate.

Through a statement on Monday, Nasa said it had already held talks with the debate organisers and ironed out sticky issues they had raised earlier.

"At our final meeting last Thursday, Nasa and the Commission reached agreement on the principal points about the debate format, including the issues to be discussed, the moderators, the audience and the venue," said Salim Lone, adviser to Nasa Presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

But according to Mr Lone, the Debate organisers informed them that they had received no response from President Kenyatta's Jubilee side to "what would be or not be acceptable to them in terms of the debate format."

WON'T ATTEND

On July 5, both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had announced they would not take part in the debates as they all accused the organisers of not consulting them.

"This debate is being organised through advertisements in the media by some people we do not know. They went ahead to give the dates of the debate with no consultation with the President. They have not contacted State House or the party," Jubilee Party secretary general Raphael Tuju was quoted as having said in regards to Mr Kenyatta's participation.

"We do not know what the ground rules are and we won't participate," he said then

And on Mr Odinga's side, Mr Salim Lone had announced that the Nasa presidential candidate would not take part in the debate.

GUIDELINES CONTESTED

In June, the organisers had said that in order to have a non-crowded debate, three leading presidential candidates would battle it out on television and radio.

"Candidates with less than five per cent popular support as indicated in opinion polls will take part in separate single pool debates to be conducted on the same dates," the Presidential Debates Steering Committee said while it released the guidelines on June 8.

Other Presidential candidates contested this requirement, saying they were all equal and should be allowed to participate in a single debate.

The candidates include Alliance for Real Change candidate Mohammed Abduba Dida, Thirdway Alliance Kenya leader Ekuru Aukot, former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, and independent candidates Michael Wainaina, Japhet Kavinga Kaluyu, and former Cooperatives minister Joseph Nyagah.

COURT RULING

However, on July 7, the Presidential Debates Steering Committee announced that the running mates debate would be held on July 17 while the Presidential one would be held on July 24 after changes were made.

Similarly, there would be only one debate for each of the categories; earlier plans had indicated there would be two debates.

This followed a High Court ruling after a case filed by Mr Dida who had challenged the categorisation.

Nonetheless, a verdict by Justice John Mativo stated that the debates would go on in their earlier format and that there was no discrimination in the manner in which they are planned to be conducted.

CONFUSION

And on the D-day for the running mates debate, uncertainty reigned as almost half of them said they would not attend.

Mr Waruru, has since maintained that the debate would go on as planned, saying the remaining four running mates would be hosted.

"Nasa is still ready to take part in the proposed Debates as soon as Jubilee engages in agreeing on the "ground rules" that President Kenyatta used as the excuse to duck the Debates, which Kenyans have come to expect as an essential platform for leaders to communicate their visions directly to them," said Mr Lone.

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