Brookhouse International School’s auditorium in Karen, Nairobi, where the debate will
be held. [PHOTO: MBUGUA KIBERA/STANDARD]
By Abdikadir Sugow
Nairobi,KENYA: History will be made on Monday when six of the eight presidential candidates spar in Kenya’s first-ever election debate.
Up to 44 million people are expected to follow the much-anticipated debate live on TV, radio and online, making it the biggest media event in Kenya’s history.
The debate, an initiative of the Kenyan media, will be beamed live from the Brookhouse International School’s auditorium in Karen, Nairobi from 7pm. The second debate will be on February 25 at the same venue.
The Sh100 million event will showcase the presidential candidates’ policies on the issues that affect them, hopefully enabling voters to make better choices.
And the presidential candidates are not taking the debate lightly.
With all confirming attendance for the showdown, CORD candidate Raila Odinga has booked his rehearsal today in the same venue with Mudavadi, Kenneth and Karua expected to rehearse their lines tomorrow.
The organisers said Google would stream the debate online, while international media outlets CNN and Reuters will also cover the event.
Local media will stream the debate live on eight television and 34 radio stations.
The candidates include Raila Odinga, CORD presidential flag-bearer, Martha Karua (Narc-Kenya), Peter Kenneth (Eagle Coalition), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani coalition), Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee) and Prof James ole Kiyiapi (Restore and Rebuild Kenya).
Safina’s Paul Muite and Mohammed Abduba Dida of Alliance of Real Change party were time-barred because they were not in the picture when the organising committee began preparing the exercise.
Contacted, Muite said: “Since the organisers have excluded me from participating in the debate, it is inappropriate for me to make any comments. I don’t want anyone to think it is a case of sour grapes”.
Dida said it was unfair to exclude him, saying organisers should have waited for all candidates to be cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“They should not be undemocratic to decide for Kenyans who will be in the debate. They should have waited for the legal process where IEBC officially clears candidates,” he said.
The ‘Presidential Debate 2013’ director of operations Francis Munywoki said the event would last two hours, with the candidates fielding questions from two moderators - NTV’s Linus Kaikai and Julie Gichuru of Citizen TV.
Munywoki said during the first round of the debate, issues of governance, social services (health and education), security and resource management would be discussed. After the discussion, there will be an expert analysis on the thematic issues discussed.
Various experts will delve into the viability of the ideas projected by the candidates and put issues in perspective.
During the second debate, deliberations will revolve around the economy, land, devolution and foreign policy. KTN’s Joe Ageyo and Citizen TV’s Uduak Amimo will moderate this round.
“At 7pm on Monday, each of the candidates will walk into the auditorium one by one. They will shake hands before the National Anthem is played and they will then be allowed thirty seconds to introduce themselves,” said Munywoki.
Each candidate has been allocated two minutes to answer a question, including clarifications from the moderator.
“The moderator can probe a candidate’s response further for 30 seconds, and an additional 30 seconds to one minute will be allowed for rebuttal,” he added.
In designing the time slots, Munywoki, who is also the Director of Value & Innovation at the Standard Group, said the panel studied patterns in other countries that have conducted similar debates.
The presidential debates of the US were of keen interest to the team led by Royal Media Services Chief Executive Officer Wachira Waruru.
Others in the steering committee are Linus Gitahi (Nation Media Group), Sam Shollei (Standard Group), Paul Wanyagah (Media Max), Patrick Quarcko (Radio Africa), Julius Lamaon (Kass TV) and Waithaka Waihenya (KBC).
The team has compiled more than 5,000 questions directed to the six candidates through SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter and others delivered to Standard Group offices in Nairobi.
The secretariat has a research wing made up of veteran journalists and subject experts who have tightened the questions that the candidates will answer.
“This will be an opportunity for the candidates to engage the audience and show what really differentiates them from their competitors,” Munywoki explains.
He adds: “This way, we want to use of the media to help the electorate make more informed decisions during the elections and at the same time, create peace.”
A guest list of 200 has been drawn up representing all sectors. According to the rules, there will be no clapping, cheering or jeering during the debates.
Political materials including banners, signs, literature, party-branded clothing among others will also not be allowed into the auditorium.
Time limits on responses will also be strictly observed.
There will be visible timing mechanism and moderator intervention when a candidate exceeds his or her time.