Televised political debates in Kenya started in 2013 and since then they have become part of the election calendar, with an intention to enable citizens to access comprehensive information that will help them decide whom to elect.
The debate is also a chance for voters to hear the gubernatorial, deputy and presidential candidates speak about their political priorities and manifestos.
In this election, we have witnessed candidates campaigning to draw in voters across the religious divide but unfortunately, the question of faith seems to be missing in the political debate.
It looks like the future of our country is being designed and religion is not being given the priority in the ongoing conversations.
Yes, the candidates have a lot of ground to cover as far as the economy, health care, debt management, the makeup of our independent constitutional bodies, etc. is concerned, but the faith question that borders on morals and values is equally important more-so in a country estimated to be above 80% Christians. According to the Kenya, Religion and Social Profile Data.
The conversation on the campaign trails, and those we have witnessed in some of our churches and religious events over the last months has offered a glimpse at how the politicians have employed religious language in the race.
It is evident that faith and Bible references have come up throughout the Kenya Kwanza rallies led by Deputy President William Ruto far more often than at the Azimio-One Kenya Alliance rallies. Religion has turned out to be a key factor in this election with the presidential hopefuls using their faith to woo voters and mostly used politically to sway and target Christian voters.
In last night’s debate, the first between the deputy presidential candidates Justina Wamae and Ruth Mutua, the latter who campaigns on the background of Christianity and church had an opportune moment to talk about the place of faith and moral values but failed. This is after the moderator asked her if the “Marijuana agenda” being pushed by her opponent was a matter of faith or morals?
Prof George Wajackoyah of Roots Party has promised to legalise marijuana if elected to office. Church leaders have come out to condemn him urging Kenyans to be wary of his ideals that touch on the growth and use of Marijuana as an economic product.
Would you not want to know the stand of the presidential candidates on issues that the religious leaders have raised before such as the legalisation of bhang, extra-judicial killings, abortion, LGBTQ+, drug and drug abuse? As much as one would argue that these are moral issues, faith overrides morals.
As we head closer to the presidential debate scheduled for Tuesday 26th July 2022, I pray that the organizers of the debate will take a closer look at the question of FAITH not as a political weapon but as an opportunity to interrogate the candidates from a social and moral ground.
I believe the press has the capacity to check on the faith matter. Let’s not make it a non-issue in the ongoing debates – it is worth debating!