The debate was held for the first time during the countdown to the 2013 General Election. Both Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga - who, like this year, were the main presidential candidates, attended.
For Uhuru, the debate was rough. The ICC case, which the moderator would describe as an elephant in the room, was hanging over him. He was also put to task to answer questions related to huge chunks of land his family allegedly owns. Still, many Kenyans were impressed by the way a brave, focused, and composed Uhuru answered his critics.
Some of the toughest questions were thrown Uhuru’s way by Raila and Martha Karua of Narc Kenya. The duo met their match after Uhuru demanded that they substantiate their claims. Therefore, it was laughable to hear some fringe presidential candidates terming Uhuru’s decision to skip the debate as a show of cowardice. Kalonzo Musyoka and DP Ruto were supposed to show up for the running mates debate but didn't.
The rules and tools used to manage presidential debates in advanced democracies state that only candidates who garner more than five per cent of national votes in two opinion polls conducted before the date of the debate are eligible to participate. If the same was to be applied in Kenya, the last opinion polls before the scheduled debate was cancelled showed that only Uhuru and Raila were eligible to participate.
Setting debate benchmarks makes a lot of sense. It is a waste of time to bring in a candidate who cannot even garner 1 per cent of the votes to take part in the main debate. I thank the organisers for observing this rule.