, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – A pair of policemen guard the perimeter, sniffer dogs on leashes patrol the inner perimeter and caterers in smocks are congregated at the gate as buses ferry school children off the premises.
It is all systems go for the Presidential Debate 2013 and the man behind it all, Francis Munywoki, can now breathe a sigh of relief, “I’m the director responsible for the presidential debate’s operations so everything that’s going on regarding the organisation is my responsibility.”
Clad in a silver suit Munywoki appears unruffled even as the weight of the nation’s first ever presidential debate rests on his shoulders. As it turns out, Munywoki wasn’t as composed 24 hours ago, “There were some concerns that some candidates may not be able to make it.”
The presidential candidates who will be taking to the podium at Brookhouse School eventually came through and it’s in a large part due to this that Munywoki can breathe a little easier, “We’ve had five rehearsals as at this morning. Martha Karua has already come in, we’ve had Peter Kenneth, Ole Kiyiapi, Raila and Musalia Mudavadi also come in and Uhuru Kenyatta at two o’clock.”
“Nervousness was there last night but today I’m confident that we are going to have a show tonight and a fantastic one at that.”
I remember seeing Mudavadi making his way to the rehearsals in a green Land Rover with a silver one in tow and to get him there, including the four others who made time for the rehearsals, Munywoki admits was no mean fete.
“It’s difficult. It starts from not having your phone calls returned… the candidates are very busy doing other things (and we were wondering) are we going to be able to secure the candidates so they can actually come together in one venue?”
That explains the sniffer dogs and heavy police presence and that is not all that Munywoki has marshalled, “Security has been one of our biggest concerns and an area where we spend most of the time over the last several weeks.”
“We’ve secured not just this area but up to a kilometre. We’ve gotten very good support from the Inspector General (of Police). We’re getting a big number of police presence today. We’re going to have bomb detectors.”
The police presence on Lang’ata road and Ngong’ road will also be increased to ensure there are no traffic snarl ups. Not that the debaters should be concerned about traffic.
“All we need to do today is to tell them (the police) where the presidential candidate is and they’ll find a way of escorting the candidates and clearing them to this place.”
Once the cameras are rolling and the debaters are under the full glare of the spotlights they will be questioned on their education, health, security and governance policies.
“The debate on February 25 is going to focus on economy, it’s going to focus on land and land use as an issue, it’s going to focus on how we share resources and foreign policy.”
Forty-two year old Wilson Lavaza who sells music for a living is thrilled that the subjects of health and education are on the agenda, “They should put a lot of focus on matters security, health and education.”
“I’ll be home by seven,” twenty-five year old Robert Okilu vows. He has been driving a public service motorbike for the last 20 months and he’d like to know how the presidential contenders plan to lighten the tax burden on Kenyans.
Security guard Peter Odhiambo will be looking to see how the presidential aspirants plan to tackle the problem of unemployment while thirty-two year old preacher Gabriel Gichumi is glad the presidential contenders will be together on one stage and prays the camaraderie will be carried over into the elections.
“There can eventually be only one winner and I’d like them to tell us if they will concede gratefully when the time comes.”