NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – A blame game over why four Kenyans are facing charges at the International Criminal Court played out at the first ever presidential debate, as Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta traded barbs.
Odinga was taken to task along with President Mwai Kibaki for failing to move beyond the Cabinet to have legislation enabling the formation of a local tribunal passed in Parliament.
The PM however insisted that the Cabinet did pass the bills for the local tribunal but had a challenge in Parliament dealing with supporters of Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta and those of William Ruto who were under instructions not to pass the bills.
“Every Kenyan knows where I stood on this matter. President Kibaki and I spent nearly eight hours trying to convince our colleagues to vote for the tribunal but two of our colleagues who now face charges led the campaign against the local tribunal,” Odinga said and insisted that he is not responsible for the failure.
Odinga who has been blamed by his rivals of having been behind their tribulations at The Hague said that he was not interested in eliminating competition and that he wanted to face both Kenyatta and Ruto on the ballot.
Kenyatta and former justice Minister Martha Karua were both united in blaming Odinga and Kibaki for failing to back her up in Parliament in pushing for the local tribunal. Karua insisted that the two principals had only one contribution in Parliament – voting – but failed to whip their supporters from Party of National Unity (Kibaki’s) and Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.
“On the floor (of Parliament) there was no guidance as many members of the Orange Democratic Movement and from the Party of National Unity (PNU) disagreed with the Cabinet,” Kenyatta said.
“The entire Cabinet passed the bill but when we got to Parliament the two principals in spite of my pleas to them, left me with the baby. They did not stand in Parliament and persuade their supporters to vote for the local tribunal,” Karua added.
Safina’s candidate Paul Muite in his contribution to the debate said that his government will seek to challenge the jurisdiction of the ICC with the aim of bringing to book those bearing the greatest responsibility.
“If you have to charge six people you must start with the first, second and third not the fourth the fifth and sixth,” said Muite who drew a terse response from Odinga who dismissed his comments as “irresponsible.”
On the question on the fate of the country in the event that the leaders facing charges of crimes against humanity with leaders the candidates were diverse in response.
Kenyatta insisted that the he was presenting himself to Kenyans who know well the issue he’s facing and that he was able to conduct government business while he still fought to clear his name.
“We are not guilty of the ICC charges. What I seek is an elective position and not an appointive one. If Kenyans vote for me that is a show of their confidence in my ability and I will clear my name and run the country.
Odinga dismissed Kenyatta’s position saying that it would not be practical for a country to be remotely run using Skype by a president standing trial.
James ole Kiyiapi of the Restore and Build Kenya (RBK) party said that the fate of Kenyatta in the election should be left to the Kenyan people if he does not step down on his own volition with the judicial process ongoing.
Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani Coalition called for sober thoughts on the choice of leadership saying that the free choices that are made during the elections will have consequences.
Moving forward the candidates were in agreement that the country needed further reforms in the entire justice system in tandem with the reformed Judiciary.