Kenya’s 1st Presidential Debate held on Monday night was indeed a historic event viewed and listened to across the country and beyond our borders. Our local media did a great job covering the event live, while regional and international media outlets offered post-event coverage and analysis of the debate.
Close to 100 regional and international media brands found our debate newsworthy. Among them were Aljazeera, BBC, The Guardian, TIME, New York Times, Yahoo News, VoA, Washington Post, Fox News, Global Post, ABC News and so many more.
It was a sobering reminder that the world has, is and will be watching Kenya as the General Election draws nigh. Whatever their reasons, be it the 2007/8 post election violence or the ICC cases that followed soon after, or the fact that Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) had the debate trending for hours, this on a day when the Pope announced that he would be resigning.
Yeah that’s us.
While we found this international attention certainly flattering, we couldn’t help but take note of the comments below articles posted online on various news sites. Here are some we found rather interesting:-
On Yahoo News
“Are gay rights on the table???”
“Hopefully Obama will win this one.”
“So how can they do that (debate) when we have their village idiot over here”
“Where are the white candidates?”
“What no white people, Kenya is nothing but a bunch of racist”
“Why all of a sudden does Yahoo post Kenya news?? If Obama is an American citizen then why should this even be news??”
“Gosh now were going to get Kenya news force fed to us, Because that’s where King Obama is really from…”
On Al Jazeera
“The win by Uhuru is imminent.The West should start leaving if they can not put up with his administration.”
On the Daily Monitor
“I am looking forward for such debates in our country-Uganda.”
“Debating is civilized but shooting at opposition is criminal. Kenya is always ahead of Uganda it seems these days, but in early Independence days Uganda was ahead.”
There is a lot to learn from all the comments on these articles whether they be ridden with humour, hate speech, admiration or blatant ignorance.
For us back at home, this debate as historic and memorable as it has been for both Kenya and indeed the African Continent exposes a nascent constitutional democracy grappling to break free from its past.
Kenya’s politics is still largely driven by personalities and less by issues and even less by ideologies. The chorus of candidates hailed the Constitution as the progressive and powerful legal pact that it is, yet none of them were able to convincingly pin-point what exactly are the stumbling blocks in its implementation three years since its promulgation.
The average viewer was left unclear on how the candidates would work with the institutional framework under the Constitution and the areas of weakness or failure in its implementation as spearheaded by Kibaki as President