Kenya has taken the giant step to show that African democracy has come of age by organising a TV debate for its presidential contestants. Although this is the first of its kind in a continent where most presidents once in office do not want to quit power, the TV debate is expected to have a great impact on who takes over from Mwai Kibaki who has come to the end of his two-term reign.
After post-election violence marred the 2007 polls which Raila Odinga was believed to have won before it was rigged, leaving over 1000 death and 300,000 displaced, Kenyans have put behind the past and turned over a new leaf of peace. The world will be waiting to see how far Kenyan politics has grown. The maturity of its democracy will equally be under scrutiny. In the recent TV debate, eight presidential hopefuls shared the same platform with each one given the opportunity to convince voters with prospective reforms. Although it was hard to measure the performance of each candidate after the debate, two candidates distinguished themselves from the lot and would possibly determine who the 4th Kenya president shall be. Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his deputy, Uhuru Kenyatta will fight for votes when Kenyans turn out in the polls on the 4th March. These two front-runners will be the focus when the second TV date takes place on 25th February.
Odinga a staunch aide and also rival of Kibaki gained the esteem of Kenyans after he brokered a peaceful deal to head the power-sharing government as prime minister. He has since overshadowed Kibaki injured in a road accident and also ageing with health problems as the figurehead in Kenya since taking the post. He will be trying to win over voters to give him back his ‘stolen victory’ and the opportunity to govern them as president this time. Looking at the achievements which Kenya has had since he took office and his plans earmarked for the future, Odinga is poised to be the people’s favourite. However, with, most Kenyans voting along ethnic lines and not based on political achievements and ambitions, Odinga will need to beat Uhuru Kenyatta at the polls.
The gap between the two now looks pretty close, and although some opinion polls put Odinga at the lead, the race might even have to be decided in a second round if no one gets absolute majority after the vote count. With lots of vigour as well as aspiration, Odinga who campaigned indefatigably for Kibaki to win the 2002 presidential elections in 2002, ending the Kanu, would not want this to happen as he is equally an optimist in democracy.
Like father, like son
Uhuru Kenyatta the son of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta was groomed by former President Daniel Arap Moi, to be his potential successor. However, the tables turned when President Moi’s vice president, Mwai Kibaki was not pleased with the choice and fell apart with the president and left the ruling Kenya African National Union, Kanu party. He later formed his Democratic Party, but after two failed attempts to win the presidency, the opportunity finally came when he headed the National Rainbow Coalition, NARC, a hybrid of former Kanu gurus and opponents to Kanu monopoly presented him as their main candidate. Uhuru Kenyatta vying on the ticket of Kanu stood against Mwai Kibaki and lost. Although Uhuru is indicted by the International Criminal of Court, ICC for his role in instigating the 2007 post-election violence, he still stands an open chance to win the election, especially if Kenyans maintained their ethnic voting die-hard habits. With the election in less than a month to go, and his case with the ICC scheduled for April, there is a controversy on what is going to happen if he wins and becomes president. Uhuru’s candidature was also questioned by Human Rights activists but a recent High Court’s decision to allow him to run for the election has added another impetus to his campaign.
In an interview with France 24, Prime Odinga pointed out that the decision on whether Uhuru should become president even after being indicted by ICC would come from the Kenya people. Uhuru continues to refuse all the five charges labelled against him for crimes against humanity and has also stressed in many occasions that the Kenya people have the right to decide who should be their leader.
The next month’s election will be pivotal to rest of the world not just because of what happened in the 2007 polls, but rather in the development and economic hub Kenya has become over the years. A peaceful election means a smooth transition and the transfer of power, which equally means a good atmosphere for more investors to come. Apart for its tourism industry which is the best to none in the region, Kenya economic has been making progress and attracting foreign investors.