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To the Editor: Moderators trivialised televised debates with non-issues

Presidential debates are supposed to reveal information on the candidates in order to ensure the voters make informed decisions on polling day. But what happened on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 during the battle of deputies left a lot to be desired especially on the mannerisms and procedures of debating.

My belief is debates should benefit democracies in many ways through assisting voters make an informed choice at the ballot box. Debates should give the candidates an opportunity to focus on pertinent or emerging public policies rather than personality, religion or ethnic loyalties as exhibited on Tuesday.

The moderators should have taken charge and put back on track any candidate veering off course during the debate. Again, debates should give the candidates opportunities to get their messages (not gossip/stories) across the undecided vote-bloc.

What transpired on Tuesday was not a debate but a discursive talk that saw one of the deputies in the second session promote politics of intolerance, politics with bitterness, unconstructive dialogue and politics of disservice to the people.

One of the debaters used the 90 minutes session to disparage President Uhuru Kenyatta who was not either a debater, panelist or participant in the auditorium. Why the two moderators – Sophia Wanuna and James Smart – allowed that unbecoming behaviour to continue still baffles me as I write this piece!

Probably, the moderators left him purposely ajikaange na mafuta yake but his uncouth dredging of personal issues should not have been left to grow by the seconds or minutes.

The attacks against the outgoing president were unwarranted, uncalled for, unnecessary and demeaning to the intelligence and presence of Kenyans in the important event of a general election’s calendar.

For the July 26 event, my expectation of skilled and impartial moderators with synergy to achieve the core mission of informing voters of what metal or wood (character or content) the presidential candidates are made up of.

Please debate organisers, stop inviting citizens’ questions when you know the moderators will not use or ask the candidates to respond to within the allocated session time. In the deputies’ day, I forwarded my question on KKA’s digital superhighway but it was thrown under the bus!

The question still stands: How will KKA deal with high rates of poverty, high cost of data and lack of infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas to ensure connectivity in every corner of the country? How does the alliance intend to deal with the growing gender gap in Internet usage?

Please minimize your own projections more than the debaters’. I expect the focus to be more on the candidates than the moderators or journalists involved on the Tuesday debate. Just be invisible and let Kenyans enjoy the presidential candidates more and more without unnecessary interruptions either by design or otherwise.

 

With regards,

Mndwamrombo, Mwakera Mwajefa

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