Kenya holds first-ever presidential debate


Kenyans in Nairobi watch the country’s first-ever presidential debate on Feb. 11, 2013.



Millions tuned into Kenya’s first-ever presidential debate on Monday, BBC News reported. The debate for the eight candidates vying for the Kenyan presidency in the upcoming Mar. 4 election took place before an audience of about 200 at a private school in a suburb of Nairobi and was broadcast live on television and radio.

The eight candidates are Prime Minister Raila Odinga; Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta; Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi; Peter Kenneth, an ex-banker and lawyer whose been an MP since 2002; Paul Muite, a lawyer and veteran opposition politician; James ole Kiyiapi, a former civil servant and academic; Muhamed Abduba Dida, a former teacher who’s new to politics; and the only female candidate, Martha Karua, who’s an ex-justice minister, BBC News reported.

Each candidate gave a two-minute explanation about why they wanted to be the fourth president of Kenya, then answered questions from moderators and the audience, BBC News reported.

Frontrunner Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, was questioned on how he could run the country while defending himself against crimes against humanity charges, the Associated Press reported.

Kenyatta is due to go on trial at The Hague in April for his alleged involvement in the murder, forcible deportation, persecution and rape of his rival Raila Odinga’s supporters after Kenya’s last elections in 2007, the AP reported. The trial could last for years.

"If the people of Kenya do decide to vote for me as their president, I will be able to handle the issue of clearing my name while ensuring the business of government continues and our manifesto and agenda for Kenya is implemented," Kenyatta said, according to the AP.

"You cannot run a country through Skype," Odinga quipped in response, according to BBC News.

Few Kenyans who spoke to the BBC in Nairobi and Nakuru said they were changing their vote based on the debate.

According to BBC News:

This is not entirely surprising as voting patterns in Kenya are usually dictated by ethnic loyalties.

A second debate will be held on Feb. 25.

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