President Kenyatta was set up by NASA to snub the Presidential Debate

The theories why President Kenyatta snubbed the Presidential Debates are many, but one thing that’s true is that President Kenyatta ultimately gave Kenyans the middle finger, no matter how you want to look at it.

Imagine this:

Last evening there was a Kenyan who left work early. There was another who made sure dinner was ready before 7. There was another who had to cross the road in haste, almost being hit by a car, so that s/he didn’t miss the curtain raiser of the country’s second Presidential Debate. Yet another was in a bar or a club, despite it being a weekday, to catch what the two political bigwigs had in store for the country.

These Kenyans, whether deep in rural areas assembling in groups to listen to that one village radio, or lying comfortably on their couches in their Runda mansions, had set aside their valuable time to listen to those they want to entrust the next five years to; to those they want to guard their monies, properties, and wealth.

In a Facebook debate one sympathizer of President Kenyatta apologised on behalf of Uhuru, “Why attend a predetermined debate..?? It became more of an interview than a debate”, to which I responded, “Why not? If you watched then there was something you expected to gain. That expectation is what he should have showed up to satisfy.”

If you want to understand the bigger picture from where I drew my response, read: Celebrating the flopped #DebatesKE is missing the big picture.

So the question is, why did President Kenyatta give Kenyans the middle finger? There are two sides of the coin. On the head side, we have those providing these theories:

  1. That President Kenyatta was too busy attending to other matters of national importance.
  2. That the Presidential Debate would add zero value to Uhuru’s campaign.
  3. That the Debate was biasly organized.
  4. That President Kenyatta wanted to corner Raila to not attend the debate.
  5. That Uhuru’s no-show was a tactical move and we’ll see the outcome in the coming days.
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We flip the coin and find the other set of theories:

  1. That President Kenyatta was afraid to face accountability.
  2. That NASA cornered President Kenyatta into not attending the Presidential Debate.

From the first set of theories, the theory I find worth discussing is the claim that President Kenyatta’s decision was a tactical move whose outcome will be realized in a few days. This theory can only hold water if one assumption is true; that Raila was set up to fail terribly during the debate, then President Kenyatta could use that massive failure to gain political capital. Let Seth Odongo muse:

JUBILEE had provided Linus Kaikai with the meeting that happened in the PM’s office chaired by Raila and attended by Michuki (then acting Finance Minister), Shaban (Special Programmes and William Ruto (Agriculture) in 2009. Linus was to use it to revisit the “Raila maize scandal”.

Raila was to be painted as having forced the buying of maize from South Africa as opposed to Tanzania. What this was to achieve was to paint Raila as an enemy of Tanzania, but also paint Naomi Shaban and Ruto as the (then) friends of Tanzania, for now. As you all know, there is this feeling that Tanzania government favors/prefers Raila to Uhuru.


However, if the comments found on Twitter related to the debate via the hashtags #DebatesKE and #PresidentialDebateKE, alongside the polls that rated Raila’s performance at the solo debate are to go by, then we confidently conclude that this tactical move was the biggest blunder President Kenyatta ever did. To add weight to this conclusion, Jubilee bloggers attempted to water down Raila’s performance through the hashtag #WhatRailaDidNotTellUs, a hashtag that failed to trend even in the wee hours of the morning when Kenyans were still asleep. Let us sample some feedback from those three hashtags.





From the other side of political divide, the theory that requires explanation is the theory that Raila out maneuvered President Kenyatta, forcing Kenyatta to make the biggest political blunder. As can be seen, this theory is similar to the theory that President Kenyatta set up Raila to not attend the debate, only this time the person who took the bait is President Kenyatta.

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The theory claims that the stage for Uhuru’s blunder was set immediately President Kenyatta issued a statement that he will not attend the July 10th 2017 debate. After the President made that statement, NASA issued a statement that they too would not attend the debate that features all presidential candidates, but their Presidential Candidate was willing to participate in a debate with President Kenyatta. The two statements led to a push and pull, which culminated in the cancellation of the July 10th debate.

The ramifications of the two statements would however play out during the Deputy Presidential Debate that took place a week later on July 17th. During that Debate, other than Muthioria Kariara appearing in the first segment where he stole the show, both Deputy President William Ruto and NASA’s Deputy Presidential Candidate Kalonzo Musyoka failed to appear for the debate. Debates Media Limited would declare the second segment of the debate a no-show.

The failure by Kalonzo to show for the Deputy Presidential Debate is now being seen, by those advancing “Raila out maneuvering Kenyatta” theory, as a setup to hoodwink Jubilee that Raila will likewise decline to show for the Debate if President Kenyatta failed to show for Presidential Debate.

This theory gains credence  from an interview KTN News held with Raila Odinga mid morning on the day of the Presidential Debate. In that interview that I caught midway, the interviewer asked Raila Odinga if he will attend the Presidential Debate later that evening. Raila Odinga reiterated that he will attend if Uhuru confirms that he too will attend. The interviewer then asked, twice, why Raila was not considering to take the prime time opportunity to sell his agenda to Kenyans, even if Uhuru was not to attend the debate. To this, Raila responded that he did not need a prime time TV show to talk to Kenyans, as he talks with Kenyans every day in the campaigns

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It is therefore easy to see how President Kenyatta could have fallen in the trap. Kalonzo’s no-show was a strong indicator to Uhuru and his team that Raila’s intentions to show up only if Uhuru shows up held water. And that’s why President Kenyatta ended up not showing up –  giving Raila a massive opportunity to both cement his ground and steal a few undecided voters. Kenyans online for example were won by the performance of Raila Odinga if the replies in the Raila’s “thank you Kenya” tweet are taken seriously.


Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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