As political temperatures rise ahead of party nominations, politicians have received considerable bashing from some churches for engaging in politics during religious functions, with some even denying aspirants a chance to even greet congregants during church service.
However, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) on Sunday decided to host its first public debate ward aspirants in Juja, an initiative the church said was inspired by the need to inform voters on why they should elect the most suitable leaders who will help hasten development in the area.
The pilot debate themed “Vote not with the stomach but with the mind”, saw 10 aspirant in Kalimoni Ward each get a fair chance to sell their manifesto to residents and answer questions on issues raised.
This was done in a sober environment, devoid of the usual hate speech and mudslinging that are synonymous with political gatherings.
George Mutonga, one of the debate’s co-coordinators and who is an elder at PCEA Kalimoni, told the Nation that the debate was informed by the church’s realisation that it should have a voice in assisting voters make the right decisions when electing leaders.
He said the best way to do that without being seen as favouring a certain candidate was through the provision of an environment through which leaders could articulate their manifestos in a sober and controlled environment where vices such as hate speech, disrespect and voter bribery are prohibited.
“Political rallies have their own [shortcomings] that interfere with the voters’ interpretation of who the right candidates are.
“We felt time is ripe for the church to participate in helping voters make the right choices by hosting such a forum.
“Here, Kalimoni Ward residents got a chance to listen to the aspirants and ask questions which I believe will assist them to make informed judgements,” said Mr Mutonga.
After the successful debate, the church said it will consider making the debates a regular event that will involve aspirants for all seats in the near future.
“We have seen that it is doable even with the little challenges we faced, this being the first debate. We hope the church as whole can emulate this elsewhere,” he added.
Kalimoni MCA Joel Waichere thanked the church for hosting the debate, terming it as a sure way of helping his electorate understand the roles of MCAs and some of the factors that contribute to delays in the fulfilment of some of the pledges he made in 2013.
“We are the inaugural MCAs under the new constitution. It is important to note that we started by assuming the role of implementation of devolution and have only had three and a half successful years to work on our promises not five, contrary to what the public believes,” explained the MCA, who is defending his seat in the August elections.
Mr Magana Kenyatta, a first time contender for the Kalimoni Ward seat, said in his quest to capture the seat, he will rely on the good relationship he has enjoyed with the residents coupled with his community service projects that include connecting homes with water, rehabilitating alcohol addicts and improving on the welfare of boda boda riders as their patron.
Similar debates organized by professionals have been taking place in Gatundu North Constituency where MP and MCA aspirants have been sharing their manifestos with the people.
However, one debate which took place at Gituamba shopping centre turned chaotic after drunk youth disrupted it after an MCA aspirant they were supporting was asked a question over alleged misappropriation of money belonging to Kinyagi milk co-operative society’s during his tenure as a director.
The youths started shouting in protest but were calmed by the aspirant.