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Skipping presidential debate for whatever reason set bad example

By The Standard | Jul 26th 2017 | 2 min read

It did not come as a big surprise when President Uhuru Kenyatta skipped the much-publicised televised presidential debate on Monday, but Kenyans were disappointed nonetheless. Jubilee’s Secretary General Raphael Tuju had earlier informed the public the Mr Kenyatta would not be in attendance at the debate initially planned for July 10 but later pushed to July 24 to allow organisers time to address issues raised over the format of the debate and to await a court ruling on a case lodged by presidential aspirant Abduba Dida.

Organisers of the presidential debate (drawn mainly from local media houses) had split it into two groups; Michael Wainaina, Ekuru Aukot, Dr Japheth Kaluyu, Cyrus Jirongo, Abduba Dida and Joseph Nyaga were in the first group. The top two contenders; President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga would meet in the second group. But then, things didn’t go according to plan.

Cyrus Jirongo, Joseph Nyaga and Abduba Dida skipped the debate and so did President Kenyatta.

By design, political debates should assist winnow the least suited candidates out of a race. Debates ought to promote a contest of ideas; it should not be a stage to serve up melodrama.

The reasons advanced by the Presidency for the no-show (that he has spoken enough about his development record in rallies) sound hollow, unconvincing.

In a way, a televised debates provides the platform to reach a wider audience all at the same time. The pressure-cooker situation helps bring out the true character of those who seek to lead us. Out there in the rallies where no tough questions are asked, the candidates can afford to trundle out lofty ideas and dodge sticking points. But then, Kenyans want specific answers to their many pressing questions. By all means, a televised debate gives them that a chance to hear those answers. Moreover, debates test one’s patience, intellect and competence. A leader’s development record is comparable to a thesis which one must defend to be confered a degree. It is a shame that Mr Kenyatta failed to defend his record as President. Sadly, our democracy was the loser of the night. 

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