Kenya had its first ever televised presidential debate on Monday night. Like many others I was watching the livestream online and Tweeting while at it. I have included some of my real time tweets in this post (see below). A number of things stood out during the debate. The incumbent Prime Minister Raila Odinga—referred to acronymically in my tweets as “RAO”—was poorly prepared. In what’s been covered in the media as a two-horse race between him and Uhuru Kenyatta (the son of Kenya’s founding president), Odinga’s attempt to adopt Obama-style “change” rhetoric failed to dazzle. Meanwhile, Uhuru (referred to as “UK” in my tweets) was dogged by questions about the ethics of his running for the presidency while facing charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC), prompting him at one point to refer to his trial at the ICC as “a personal issue” that would not affect his work as president. As expected, Paul Muite, a prominent figure in the pro-democracy movement of the early 1990s, was a wild card, frequently calling out both the Prime Minister and Uhuru Kenyatta on all matters ICC-related. The former justice minister, Martha Karua, the only female candidate on stage, sailed through very well in my opinion. Banker Peter Kenneth was nowhere as good as expected. His tough talk on security seemed an attempt to overcompensate for his image as a nice guy. However, Kenneth did score massive points as he was the only one who called out (and put figures to) the bloated national debt accrued as a result of Kibaki era neoliberalism. Musalia Mudavadi had us all a little surprised when he declared privatization—of parastatals and even the port of Mombasa—as the panacea for Kenya’s revenue problems. Mohammed Dida provided some unusual comic relief to the anodyne atmosphere. And James ole Kiyiapi (he has a Facebook page) put in a strong performance, particularly when the panel discussed education—there is a massive shortage of teachers in schools, a political point most of the other candidates failed to capitalize on.
All in all the questions posed by the moderators were oftentimes easy pitches that the candidates hit for home runs. Without further ado, here’s Kenya’s first ever presidential debate via Tweets: