Raila has his way as Uhuru skips presidential TV debate

Raila during last night's TV debate at Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi. He promised to bring down the cost of living, address food shortage, and create employment

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President Uhuru Kenyatta last evening skipped the much-awaited Presidential Debate even as his main rival used the opportunity to sell his candidature in a live televised debate.

With just 13 days to the General Election, President Kenyatta gave the debate held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi, a wide berth as he was expected to outline his vision to Kenyans.

Uhuru had indicated that he would not honour the invite after complaining that the organisers of the event 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-Chairman David Murathe told The Standard last night shortly before the debate started. The snub gave Raila an opportunity to speak in the second phase of the debate that followed an earlier one attended by three presidential candidates.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) leader said his first mission, if elected, would be to bring down the cost of living, address food shortage, create employment, and control rents.

"It's my fourth time 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.

Raila accused Uhuru's administration of over-borrowing "only to steal the same instead of investing in projects that can create jobs".

"For 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's in Germany, the United States, or on the moon? Why should it be a matter of national necessity unless they are planning to rig? Yes, we have a tallying centre in Kenya and in the clouds. The law does not stop anyone from having their own tallying centre."

When asked to justify his frequent claims that Jubilee was planning to use of the military to rig the polls, Raila insisted that the experience of 2007 and 2013 and the information he has come across point to the veracity of the allegations.

He insisted 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. It's not the responsibility of the military to provide security internally without the express authority of Parliament. There are two 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."

He hit out at President Kenyatta over his handling of security matters and insisted that he would withdraw the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) from Somalia if he is elected.

"If I was a President, I would not be watching Formula One in Dubai as Kenyans die at the hands of Al Shabaab. I will lead the war from the front," Raila said adding: "It's unfortunate that the President can 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 Principal Secretary, Mariam El Maawy, was the work of political leaders and not Al Shabaab.

Raila 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.