Millions of Kenyans will be heading to the polling stations on Monday to vote a new leader in a historic presidential election that is expected to be free, fair and peaceful. After a second televised presidential debate, which all eight candidates were bombarded with questions on economic, corruption, relationship between election and economic , and land issues, the decision now rests in the hands of Kenyans to ballot who they want to be their president for the next five years. Monday’s election will be of great concern to the rest of the international community. Investors as well as human rights groups would be anxious to see Kenya’s maturity and democratization, after the country was mired by a fatal post-election violence in 2007, that left about 1000 deaths and more than 300, 000 displaced.
If the first presidential debate was nervy and daunting to the candidates who were finding their feet and rhetoric prowess to win over electorates with their manifestos while in office, the second debate showed more maturity and politically proficiency. The candidates were more cautious with their responses to questions on sensitive issue as well as giving respect to each other even on matter touching personal life. What also stood out clear during the second debate was that all the candidates advocated for a peaceful election and vowed to stand by the new constitution which is being tested for the first time since its approval in a referendum in 2010.
The debate that started timidly gathered momentum when the endemic problem of land was flagged up. By the time the moderator asked each presidential hopeful to conclude their campaign oratory for votes the energy level was high and the quest to talk on, irresistible. With family members mounting the podium to appreciate the courage of the debaters, and the contenders exercising political fair play by handshaking, the hope is that the election will come and go without any hostility.
What ambitions for Kenya
Overall, Raila Odinga was very choosy on his words when answering questions, especially on how he intended to put forwards his political ambitions as a president. Uhuru Kenyatta again was all eyes, but he cleverly used the second debate to clear his name while defending his actions and achievements as a former finance minister. The palaver of land ownership and re-distribution was almost a KO for him, but he managed to gain stamina thanks to backing from his boss Prime Minister Odinga. Martha Karua the only female candidate in the race threw a few points left and right. She, however, gained kudos thanks to her envisaged plans for a just and peaceable Kenya though she was lacking confidence in both her voice and body language.
The joker of this decisive debate was Mohammed Abduba Dida, the youngest and the only candidate that has never served in any Kenya government or been to parliament. His plans were quite radical but he urged Kenyans to vote a leader that has integrity as well as God fearing. To him all of his rivals had moved political camps before and were only using campaign speeches to cajole voters so as to stick on with old habits once voted. Dida also admitted that Kenya needed a change, but doubted how the change could come from what he called ‘recycled leaders’. Bitter, lively and frank the businessman and former teacher could be the surprise in the election although his political profile and trajectory are far from convincing.
If each candidate was scored according to performance and presentation then Peter Kenneth stood out by miles. He seemed to have been the only one schooled on television presentation techniques. He mastered his facts and was reasonably analytical when handling his questions. Soft spoken and young he might be just the type of leader Kenyans need at this modern era. Even if he does not win, he would surely be coming back and remains the one to watch out for in future elections.
It is hard to say whether the two debates would impact on how Kenyans will be voting next week, however, because the debates were highly broadcast and covered by the local press the debates could at least convince Kenyans to opt for a peaceful election and be ready to accept the results. The issue of a vibrant economic, fight against corruption, development, and of course, land re-distribution and possession which were all aspects which most voters wanted them addressed could be tropical on how they vote. With party names something difficult to recall in Kenya as they appear and disappear like mushrooms leaving only traces on coalition, the televised debates would at least help the voters to match the faces of the candidates when they select the ballot to cast.