12 February 2013

Looking Back at Kenya's First Televised Presidential Debate

Kenya held its first ever presidential debate on Monday, an historic event.

The eight candidates* gathered in Nairobi to debate the most pressing issues in the first of two televised debates.The young country’s event was everything that the 2012 US presidential debates were not.

Candidates from minority parties with no chance of making a dent on election day stood side by side with the front runners. The event went over its scheduled 2 hours lasting near 3.5 hours when all was said and done.

However, it was not because the candidates were wasting time or talking too much. An efficient tandem of moderators, NTV’s Linus Kaikai and Citizen TV’s Julie Gichuru, moved the conversation along, kept the candidates to their time limits, interrupted them when the question asked was not answered and provided immediate follow-ups when necessary.

Twitter followed along with the hashtag #kedebate13 and became a worldwide trending topic (Reminder to Jimmy Kimmel: Kenyans do tweet). Ory Okolloh assembled a list of tweeters who would be fact checking the claims made by the candidates. 

The opening topic was related to the issue of the post-election violence and the tribalism that fueled it. Kenyatta and Odinga, both from different tribes, described their previous experiences working together in the government to prove that they were unifying leaders rather than divisive tribalists. Other candidates took on the question rather than deny it being a problem with strong statements from Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua. “We need to look Kenyans in the eye and tell the truth. We must break historical bondage we have been tied to for the last 50 years,” said Kenneth.