The traditional Dekutso council aspirants debate happened yesterday at Auditorium 2. Compared to previous years, the attendance was a record low. This may be attributed to a general lack of interest in politics among comrades and especially a lack of interest in this year’s debate, seeing as the aspirants had no competitors to debate against. It could also be attributed to a communication problem. Most students were not aware that such a thing as the debate was going on. The venue was confirmed late and the ECK sent out invitation messages for the debate just two hours before it was scheduled to start. This means that a good number of students were locked out due to the lack of timely information. Moreover, some students don’t know where Auditorium 2 is, especially those who have almost all their classes in the School of Business side, something the ECK failed to consider in their communication.
And so it happened that a population of 8000+ DeKUT comrades was represented by an audience of less than 100 students at the debate. All the same, with covid 19 regulations being observed, the debate kicked off some minutes to three.
An aspirant would take the floor and highlight the main points in his or her manifesto for five minutes. Each of the three moderators would then ask questions. To their credit, the moderators posed relevant and sometimes thought provoking questions. It was evident that they had prepared for the task. However, they did not do any follow up. As such, an aspirant could give an answer that was not convincing but as long as there was an answer, they would move on to the next question. The aspirants shouldn’t have been let off the hook that easily, especially considering that it was a debate.
After an aspirant answered the questions from the moderators, the floor would then be opened to any member of the audience who had a question. The comrades who took this opportunity surpassed expectations by asking sober questions that exposed real issues among comrades. Among the issues that were raised include unfair allocation of bursaries, the high rent in hostels around Kimathi, the disappointing state of student events in Dekut – including sports; and how to ensure that such initiatives as the Science and Technology Park help in absorbing students after graduation. A recurring issue was the lack of comradeship in DeKUT. One comrade also faulted the outgoing council for going along with the administration, even at the disadvantage of comrades.
For the most part, the aspirants gave good answers to questions and showed that they were capable of the jobs that they will soon be undertaking. However, the lack of proper and practical plans to achieve their agenda was evident. An aspirant would take to the stand with a manifesto that was very delicious to the ear but when asked how they planned to actualize their promises, they fail to be convincing.
For example, Chris Wekesa, the aspiring Campus Secretary, was asked why he thinks he is the best person for the post. His answer was something along the lines of, “According to the Bible, as a man thinketh, so does he become. As such, I think I am the best for the position and I am therefore the best.” However, he had a good manifesto and pledged to strengthen the linkage between the Nyeri campus and Nairobi campus. He also promised to work hand in hand with the rest of the council to ensure the issues of school fees and fare to and from Nyeri town from the main campus were addressed.
On the whole, the competence of the aspirants came out clearly during the debate. Innovative ideas to the problems of comrades were brought forward. For example, as a solution to the boring events that Dekut is famous for, the aspiring treasurer, Sharon Wachinga plans to forge partnerships with external organizations such as the county government. This will also help increase the money available to students through bursary.
In addition, pending issues that comrades have failed to resolve in the past were brought up. The increment to first years fees and the fees that comrades paid while studying at home were mentioned by the aspiring Vice Chairperson (Janet Chepkirui) and Chairperson (Gakere Nyingi) Janet seemed especially passionate about the idea and promised to work for the fees to be pushed to next semester – a promise that comrades will hold her to once she is in office. Gakere also promised to revisit the issue of first year’s fee increment. Such a thing would be difficult to accomplish and we now wait to see how the chairperson will go about it once he gets into office.
Gakere also addressed the rent issue, which was brought up by a comrade during the open forum. The incoming chairperson, rather than giving flowery promises, took a realistic approach to the matter. As a business student, he emphasized the impact of the laws of demand and supply, pointing out that the high demand for hostels around the school is the cause of the high prices. The only solution, he said, was to pressure the school to increase the number of internal hostels, thereby increasing the supply of hostels and bringing down the cost. He foresaw that this was unlikely to happen during his term in office but promised to work towards the implementation of such an initiative by the university.
The issue of comrade unity was raised a couple of times. It was the main agenda in the aspiring Secretary General’s (Festus Bett) manifesto. Asked how he planned to go about ensuring comrade unity, he pledged to work with the various leaders of the many associations in Dekut to help revitalize comradeship. Watching the aspiring Secretary General speak with one hand outstretched was reminiscent of the country’s DP, William Ruto. Another solution that was proposed by Newton Mwenda (aspiring Sports Secretary) was to increase the frequency and quality of events in DeKUT as a way of fostering the spirit of comradeship. It was also suggested that there should be regular comrade forums, with Gakere pledging to take the annual Students’ AGM seriously and to initiate school based forums.
Fighting against gender based violence in campus and supporting the boy child were some of the top agenda in the manifesto of incoming Gender and Disability Mainstreaming Secretary, Maureen Kagwiria.
The climax of the debate was the aspiring chairperson’s manifesto. A fiery and passionate Gakere took to the stage and worked the audience up into a sort of frenzy. The thunderous boom of the audience could be heard from far as they echoed his chant, “Inawezekana na Itawezekana.” In fact, when one of the moderators was posing his question, he compared Gakere’s passion to that of Obama. Another comrade who stood to ask a question in the open forum said that Gakere had the spirit of Babu Owino and that the university would go far under his leadership. And yet another comrade in the open forum said that he saw the spirit of Sabul the Bull in him.
However, not everyone was praising him. One comrade brought up the issue of the lack of competition. Asked how he felt about not having a competitor, Gakere said that he was very happy because for the first time in DeKUT, there would be no loser in the elections and his leadership would be one that represented comrades from different regions in the country, as opposed to the outgoing council which only had leaders from Central. He added that no one had been prevented from submitting his or her papers to the electoral commission.
All in all, the debate ended up being more constructive than the debates of previous years. However, even with the lack of competition, the politicians couldn’t help procuring the services of sycophants. These sycophants, who were clearly high on something, would disrupt the debate from time to time, yelling and chanting for no apparent reason. They would even yell when their preferred aspirants were speaking and at times made it difficult to hear what was being said. They would even boo down those who were asking questions. They were the most disgraceful element of the debate.
If all goes as it is expected to, there will be a swearing ceremony soon after the election on Friday. We urge comrades to attend the ceremony and get to see their leaders. We also urge the ECK to make it possible for comrades to attend the event by reliably providing timely information.
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