Henry M. Ongeri*
First and foremost, we must commend the organizers of the presidential debates for the initiative and courage. Â For years, Kenyans have elected public officials based on all other considerations than competitive articulation of vision and ideas.Â With the debates, it is no longer a matter of euphoric rallies, manipulation and obfuscation. Kenyans will have a unique opportunity to observe their aspiring leadersâ€™ demeanor, command of the issues, defense of their records and vision for the country they seek to lead. In other words, Kenyans have stepped into the arena of democratic political processes.
According to press reports, thousands of questions have been submitted to the organizers of the debate. We have no knowledge of their contents or motivations. In this piece, we seek to suggest possible outlines of critical public policy issues for every presidential aspirant based on their record and published manifestos.
Obviously, the list is by no means exhaustive and does not represent any particular view-point, only seeking information that would help ordinary wananchi make an informed choice come March 4, 2013. It is predicated on the unrealistic imagination of the author being one of the moderators.Â Â They are listed in alphabetical order.
1. How would rate your performance and effectiveness as member of Parliament for Gichugu? Specifically, how do you explain the unaccounted for CDF moneys according to the National Taxpayers Association report?
2. During the disputed general election of 2007, you played a key role as a PNU point-person. As a legal expert and political operative, can you shed light on what your specific contributions were to the outcome of the election?Â Do you have any regrets about any positions that you may have taken at KICC and thereafter?Â How do you respond to those who argue that you should also be part of the ICC process?
3. As the only female presidential candidate in the race, are you trying to make a statement about gender equity in Kenya? Â If so what is that statement and why now?
- You have an exemplary record of management of CDF funds during your tenure as MP for Gatanga, is that enough to justify your bid to be President of Kenya? How does this experience, if at all, prepare you for occupying and serving at the highest office in the land?
- For a while now, you have had consistently low showing in national opinion polls. How do you reconcile that with your quest for the presidency? What is your pathway to victory?
- Some commentators have argued that you are yet to cut the national image befitting of a President. How do you respond to them? Are you just testing the waters for 2018?
Kenyatta, Uhuru Muigai
- You are a confirmed suspect of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) do you have any reservations for seeking the leadership of the country?Â What plans have you put in place to govern Kenya (should you be elected) while at the same time attending trial at the Hague?Â Are you concerned by the possible international alienation of Kenya should you Jubilee be elected next month?Â Do you maintain the position that you can govern Kenya from the dock/jail cell in Europe?
- Other than being the son of Kenyaâ€™s first president, who are you and what should Kenyans know about you? What was your first job, school, etc
- Lately, your competitors on stage have raised the issue of land equity and your familyâ€™s ownership of huge tracts of land. Can you tell Kenyans how many hectares of land your family owns and how it acquired them?Â Do you have any plans to open your familyâ€™s land records to public scrutiny or share the same with IDPs?
Kiyiapi, James ole
- Other than serving as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, what attributes qualify you to be the next President of the Republic of Kenya? During your tenure, could you point to any accomplishments at the Ministry?
- This being your first elective office, why should Kenyans entrust you with the highest office in theÂ land? Could you even win as a Senator, Governor or MP from your local area?
- Who is James ole Kiyiapi?
- You have served both the Moi and Kibaki governments in ministerial positions, how do you rate your performance? What was your role in financial scandals, specifically Goldenberg, Nairobi cemeteries and Del la Rue?Â Do you have any reservations about your integrity under Chapter Six of the Constitution?
- As the Deputy Prime Minister under the current administration, how much responsibility do you personally accept for the corruption, disfunction and chaos that beleaguered the Grand Coalition? What regrets, if any, do you have for serving as DPM?
- You have been portrayed as an indecisive and malleable leader, how would you handle the pressures of the presidency if elected or is this portrayal mistaken?
Odinga, Raila Amolo
- You have represented Langâ€™ata in Parliament for two decades, what are your greatest accomplishments? Critics point to Kibera slums as your weakness, are you proud to be presiding over the largest slum in Africa? Looking back, could you have done anything differently?
- In 2002, you made the famous declaration, â€œKibaki Toshaâ€ do you feel that you deserve the Presidency this time around because of that or are you unhappy that President Kibaki has not returned the favor? Do you feel entitled to the presidency?
- During your tenure as Prime Minister for the last 5 years, what accomplishments can you point to? Any regrets? Â What responsibility do you take for the failures of the Kibaki administration?
For all the Aspirants
- In your view, what are the limits of integrity under Chapter Six of the Constitution?
- What is your plan to address the issue of youth unemployment? (No slogans of generalizations, specifics please).
- Does your administration view the Kenyan Diaspora as an integral part of the country? Why or why not?
- What personal sacrifice are you prepared to make for the sake of national interest? Give examples from your past.
- If for whatever reason you couldnâ€™t become President of Kenya, who from this stage would you endorse? Why or why not?
As the aspirants step up to the podium for this historic debate, all Kenyans should embrace diversity of thought, opinion and vision. No one person, alliance or community can claim a monopoly of ideas on how best to advance the nationâ€™s interest.Â Nonetheless, the seekers of the presidency have a unique obligation to justify their bids. These questions (and others are the debate) are just but a minute piece of the broader national discourse.
*The author is an attorney at law in the States of Minnesota and New York in the United States. He is also an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. He serves as the Chair, Peter Kenneth Diaspora.