Why Uhuru Kenyatta Withdrew From The 2nd Presidential Debate

February 19, 2013

TNA has sent a letter to the Presidential Debate Steering Committee explaining why Uhuru withdrew from the second debate. 
The party cites bias and failure of the moderators to ask other candidates other than Uhuru hard questions. They claim Linus Kaikai had a bone to chew with their candidate and that he had been coached on how to set the stage for direct attacks on Uhuru. 

The following letter by TNA is addressed to the Presidential Debate Secretariat.

Dear Sirs,


Kenya’s first-ever Presidential Debate took place on 11th February, 2013. While saluting the organizers for orchestrating such a historic and seminal event; it would be remiss on our part if we did not bring to the fore blatant acts of omission and commission that regrettably raise doubts on the need and value of having our Candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, appear in the second and final round on 25th February, 2013.


It was clear from the start that Moderator Linus Kaikai had an axe to grind against Uhuru Kenyatta. He had evidently been coached and directed to set the stage for the other candidates to directly attack the Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Uhuru Kenyatta, in the guise of addressing the vital subject of good governance.

As a moderator, Kaikai overstepped his mandate while addressing the governance issue and used the International Criminal Court (ICC) matter to probe only Kenyatta on his ethical qualifications and performance as a leader while not applying the same level of scrutiny to any of the other candidates’ glaring ethics and integrity issues

By stubbornly persisting with that issue for more than 30 minutes, Kaikai displayed his open bias against Kenyatta’s leadership and quite willingly set the stage for other candidates to gang up on him, and question his moral, ethical and integrity status should he be elected the Fourth President of Kenya.

Kenyatta may have been slightly distracted by the ICC line of questioning, but finally emerged stronger by providing credible answers over the challenge, which he described as a personal matter and one which he is ready to live with as he defends his innocence at the ICC.

“Which candidate does not have personal challenges: , asked Kenyatta, a line of debate that Moderator Kaikai deliberately chose to ignore since it did not fit into his preconceived ideas and biases.

Kaikai should, however, be told in no uncertain terms that his line of questioning was totally prejudicial and designed to antagonize and disadvantage the Jubilee Presidential candidate. Fortunately, the DPM maintained his calm and composure amidst all the provocation, displaying the grace under pressure that is a hallmark of the maturity befitting a national leader.

Aside from testing Mr Kenyatta’s patience and displaying the arrogance, bias and political affiliations of Kaikai; the debate in itself served no particular purpose other than providing Kenyans with an unsatisfactory and shallow plastic discourse that added no value to their knowledge or understanding of the pertinent issues relevant to their everyday lives.

Why didn’t Kaikai, for example, take up Muite’s gauntlet to challenge Raila when the Safina leader pointed that the CORD Presidential candidate should bear the greatest responsibility over issues arising from the ICC debacle? A good moderator should have seized this golden opportunity from a lawyer to interrogate Raila on the ICC. It would have made the debate all the more memorable, probative and informative.

Kaikai should be advised that the key purpose of any presidential debate is not to let rivals plough through the misery – or personal misfortunes – of competitors but to market their credentials and manifestoes competitively to the Kenyan voters, in the overall hope of influencing undecided voters and ensuring all voters make informed decisions.

It was profoundly unprofessional and tasteless for Kaikai to use the ICC indictments as a platform for allowing the other candidates to ride roughshod over Uhuru without equally raising questions related to their suitability and competency. If Kaikai had genuine intentions of exposing the weaknesses of all the candidates in the debate, then he would have dredged into the shady past of candidates like the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Raila Odinga, Hon Peter Kenneth, Paul Muite, Hon Martha Karua and Hon Musalia Mudavadi, and former PS John ole Kiyiapi, all of whom are burdened by varying degrees of either graft allegations or issues of moral probity.

It is with a heavy heart that we say that, throughout the debate, Kaikai behaved like a guided missile with a pre-programmed target – Candidate Uhuru. This is the last impression that a professionally convened and moderated presidential debate should impart.

The Kenyan media’s inaugural Presidential Debate got off to a false start. It was a tainted, loaded and totally skewed spectacle.


Kakai excitedly introduced the ICC issue as the only elephant-in-the-room, conveniently forgetting there were many other jumbos that are a matter of public knowledge and media record. He clearly chose not to introduce them into the debate room. It is unclear why neither of the two moderators probed Odinga over his alleged role in several multi-billion shilling instances of grand corruption; most notably the Triton, Maize, and Kazi Kwa Vijana scandals that have blighted the Prime Minister’s Office for a number of years.

Worse, Odinga was not grilled on his suitability for office having confirmed in writing that he participated in the 1982 coup attempt, an illegal and unconstitutional enterprise aimed at overturning the constitutional order in Kenya. Although he admitted to playing a key role in this treasonous plot in his 2006 authorized biography by Nigerian academic Babafemi Badejo – Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics – this is one issue that Odinga has successfully managed to keep out of the public domain in recent years, and Kaikai appears to be one of his foot-soldiers in this maneuver.

In addition, the two moderators failed to put Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi on the spot for his alleged role in the complex Goldenberg Scandal when he served as Finance Minister.

Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua was not grilled on her dubious role in the South Ngariama Ranch and allegations of moral impropriety, all hard issues in the public domain.

Peter Kenneth was not questioned on his suspected role in scandals involving the Kenya Re-Insurance Corporation and the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) when he was the head of the two institutions.

And James ole Kiyiapi was not questioned on his suspect role in the Education Fund scandal while Paul Muite was not taken to task on allegations that the Goldenberg Scandal chief architect Kamlesh Pattni paid him KSh20 million. Pattni made the allegations, complete with facsimiles of the cheques involved, and a senior business associate of Muite’s confirmed that the cheques were indeed banked in their firm’s account.

These were major elephants-in-the-room and Kenyans were waiting for the hard questions to be asked, a point one of the pre-debate analysts, the Nation Media Group’s Macharia Gaitho, had loudly alluded to ahead of the debate.

Why did two such highly-rated moderators fail to ask the hard questions? Why did they allow the debate to tilt so unevenly in one direction? It was a failure that smacks of deliberate strategy, prefabricated elsewhere, off-stage.

No doubt Kaikai had listened to what the pre-debate analysts were expecting on behalf of the Kenyan voters but was suspiciously only keen on introducing one elephant-in-the-room, the ICC issue; which was discussed for over 30 minutes.

We contend that the allegations against Uhuru’s rivals, whether confirmed or not, go to the heart of the ethics of the said candidates and are covered by the new Constitution. The moderators’ failure to address the issues simply confirms their bias against Kenyatta.


Perhaps the choice of Kaikai as Moderator was not a well-thought-out decision by the organizers. This moderator has previously and publicly displayed a soft spot for the Prime Minister. Kaikai is known to have expressed interest in seeking a parliamentary seat in Narok on an ODM ticket in the 2007 elections, but was reportedly talked out of his ambitions and promised the post of Director of Communications in a Raila Presidency.


The composition of pre- and post-debate analysts was deeply flawed. First, the organizers did not consult Presidential campaign teams on the said composition, thus it was abundantly clear that the inclusion of hostile civil society activist Ms Atsango Chesoni was designed to pump up bias and hostility towards Kenyatta and thus alienate a large bloc of voters who depend on “talking heads” like her to make their decisions.

It was exceedingly bad judgment on the part of the organizers to include Ms Chesoni amongst the analysts, considering that she is the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, one of the civil society bodies that have unsuccessfully been fighting in court to have Kenyatta blocked from contesting the Presidency.

It is clear that the race is between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, but it still beats logic why six other candidates were allowed to participate in the debate. We had forewarned the debate organizing committee way back last year in a minuted formal meeting that inclusion of debaters beyond the front runners, which is an internationally accepted norm, would significantly diminish the probative value of the Debate. Our advice was not heeded, the Constitution was incorrectly invoked, and consequently the public interest was not served.

Clearly some of the organizers were keen to use the Debate to further their own political agendas and support their favoured candidates.. For example, Samuel K. Macharia, the proprietor of Royal Media Services (RMS) – which contributed one of the moderators – has openly opposed Kenyatta’s candidature and aligned his broadcasting empire to bolstering Odinga’s campaigns. He was recently appointed head of CORD’s so-called Summit, becoming the first media owner in Kenya to participate directly in the affairs of a political formation.

It is public knowledge that the debate organizers were not keen on the inclusion of retired teacher Mohamed Dida Mohamed and Senior Counsel Paul Muite, who were only allowed in when they obtained court orders. This means that as it now stands because of the confused first debate precedent, under Section 108 of the Constitution, which calls for “equitable and fair” coverage of all the candidates, candidates who stand no chance whatsoever of winning, will and must participate in the second debate.


While moderators have a right to dig up past historical facts, such rights should only be invoked if they add value ,enrich the overall tenor of the debate and are relevant to the voters without serving to drive a greater wedge than already exists between rival sides. Therefore, it was unhelpful and rather sensational for Kaikai to replay the post-Independence power struggle between Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga that culminated in the latter being detained. This is one of the reasons for the “bad blood” between the Kikuyu and Luo. It can be argued that replaying the fallout of 1966-69 was needless, except to inflame the old emotions and recreate suspicions between the two communities to further split the vote blocs.
It was highly insensitive of Kaikai to bring the matter up when Kenyans are still healing from the wounds of the tragic 2007/08 post-election violence.

What’s more, the issue of timing was actively disrespected. Initially, the organisers had promised the candidates and the Kenyan audience a two-hour debate. However, due to disorganization, the skewed emphasis on the ICC issue and lack of strictness on the amount of time candidates had to give their responses; Kenyans eneded up with a three-and-a-half-hour Debate that left both the participants and the audience exhausted. The candidates were on their feet all of this time and some of them had just arrived from various grueling campaigns in far-flung corners of Kenya. This subjected the candidates to unnecessary fatigue at a time when they literally had to think on their feet and perform for the cameras.
Such blatant lack of respect for time amongst media professionals exposed the organizers’ many weaknesses in running the inaugural debate. It is not worth participating in a second Presidential Debate under such conditions and such manifest lack of professionalism.


We also noted that the organizers of the debate took it upon themselves to invite members of the audience without consulting with the stakeholders. While this is not the greatest of our grievances, we however note with concern that some of the organizers personalized the debate to the extent of inviting relatives. In addition, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have been hostile towards the Kenyatta campaign in general also got invitations into the hall instead of local activist groups that have been on the frontline promoting civic education and fighting for the right of the ordinary person to be recognized as a stakeholder in Kenyan politics.


With all due respect, we are of the opinion that with less than a fortnight to go before the polling day; our Candidate’s time can be better spent on the campaign trail rather than participating in a skewed, shambolic and farcical Second Debate.

The fact the media have already cornered themselves by having all the Presidential candidates participate in a lengthy, tedious and ultimately pointless process that does not bother to follow the most basic rules of moderated debate, including timing, should not be used to box the Jubilee team into the awkward corner of another unproductive debate.

It is our position that the voter has a right to directly connect with the candidates on the ground and preparing oneself for two days in readiness for the proposed second debate is not time well spent.

Based on these facts, we want to make it clear that the Jubilee Presidential Candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, will not be taking part in the second debate.

We, however, wish to reiterate our readiness to meet with members of the Organizing Committee to discuss these concerns.

Yours Faithfully,

Jubilee Presidential Campaign Team

© nairobiwire.com

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