President Uhuru Kenyatta skipped the much awaited presidential debate even as his main rival used the opportunity to sell his candidature in a live televised debate.
President Uhuru had a few weeks ago indicated that he would not honour the invite after complaining that the organisers had not involved him to discuss and agree on the format and rules of engagement.
“The position is that the President is not coming but if he decided to show up, that’s his prerogative,” Jubilee Party Vice President David Murathe told the Standard shortly before the debate kicked off on Monday evening.
The snub gave NASA Presidential Candidate Raila Odinga an opportunity over one hour in the second phase of the debate that followed an early one attended by three presidential candidates, to lay bare his vision for Kenya.
The NASA leader said his first mission if elected will be to bring down the cost of living, address food shortage, create employment and also control rent.
“It’s my fourth time I am running for the presidency. I represent change. The coalition that nominated me wants to bring change. We want to address mismanagement of the economy,” he said.
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Raila accused the Uhuru Kenyatta administration of over borrowing only to steal the same instead of investing in projects that can create jobs.
“Every shilling spent, another is stolen. As NASA we will address the issue of fiscal discipline and create employment.”
When asked about a tallying centre in Tanzania, he responded; “Some things exist in some people’s imagination. Why would someone be worried about a tallying centre even if it is in Germany, the United States or in the moon? Why should it be a matter of concern unless they are planning to rig? Yes we have a tallying centre in Kenya and in Kenya and in the clouds. The law does not stop anyone from having their own tallying centre.”
When asked to justify his constant claim on the use of the military to rig polls, Raila insisted that the experience of 2007 and 2013 and the information he has come across points to the claims saying that all the claims he has made can be substantiated.
“I was a Prime Minister and I used to sit in the security organs. I have information and no one can contradict. It’s not the responsibility of the military to provide security internally without the express authority of parliament. There are 2 million Kenyans who went to the booth and only elected the President. We have said that the military should desist from the temptation of interfering with the results.”
On the controversial issue of rent restriction, Raila insisted that if NASA gets into power, it shall invoke provisions of the Rent Restrictions Act to guard the poor from exploitation even though this is a liberal economy.
“It’s a free market economy yes but we have a law called Rent restriction Act which is meant to address the cost of housing and protect the poor from exploitation. This law has not been implemented. We are going to enforce the law and ensure the [poor are not forced to pay what they can’t afford,” he said.
He hit at President Uhuru over his handling of security matters and insisted that he will withdraw the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) from Somalia.
“If I was a President I will not be watching Formula One in Dubai as Kenyans died under the hands of Al shabaab. I will lead the war from the front,” Raila said adding; “It’s unfortunate that the President should play politics with Kenyans on matters security.”
He was referring to President Uhuru’s claim that the Mpeketoni attack in June 2014 was politically instigated and last week’s claim by Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa that the Lamu attack on PS Mariam El Maawy was work of political leaders and not Al shabaab.
The Opposition leader had earlier challenged the President to agree to debate him after the Debate Commission informed him that there had been no response from Jubilee to what would be or not be acceptable to them in terms of the debate format.