Kenyan presidential candidates debate ethnic divisions, healthcare plans - Kenyan Presidential candidates battled for the 4 March vote in a televised debate on Monday, pledging to radically intensify national security, boost education and tackle the redistribution of wealth to fight ethnic imbalances.
The debate kicked off on the emotive subject of ethnic-based mobilization of votes along the 47 counties, whipping ethnic emotions that have been blamed for past election-related violence and the reforms needed to stop it worsening.
'Tribalism is a problem because it is a means of allocating resources and positions and therefore used it as a means to marginalise others. We will ensure that everybody is given a fair chance in life,' said James ole Kiyapi, the Presidential candidate for the Build and Restore Kenya Party.
The main presidential candidates regretted the East African nation remained in the holds of poverty, growth retarded by poor leadership while poor leadership in the healthcare segment left millions of people without proper access to hospitals.
'We will transform the public sector within the first 100 days of taking over the government to allow it to re-invest the funds into education and health,' Prime Minister Raila Odinga, of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), said.
The debate featured the subject of the impending trial of the leading candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, whose trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is due to open in April.
'The ICC is a personal challenge. If the people of Kenya vote for me as President, I will handle the issue of clearing my name from the ICC,' Kenyatta said.
He told the debate that those calling for him to step aside must wait for the ruling of the Kenyan courts.
Commentators said the main candidates in the elections managed to evade the ethnic equation by failing to openly admit that their campaigns had relied on ethnic blocs to negotiate for political alliances.
'Tribalism is an ideology. The movement for Kenya's independence was united. But the elite have used ethnicity as a means to allocate resources. We now have a legal framework and we will ensure equity in resource allocation,' Odinga pledged.
The debate delved into the increasing recurrent expenditure of the government, which was blamed on the worsening public debt. The public debt has increased to Ksh.1.8 trillion due to heavy public borrowing.
'The fact remains our children will have to fight with a huge public debt. The public borrowing stood at Ksh800 billion in January,' said Peter Kenneth, Presidential candidate of the Kenya National Congress (KNC).
Martha Karua, the Presidential candidate of the National Alliance Party(NAK-Kenya), said her government would build a national health infrastructure and ensure it was able to avail equipment to the people.
'There is no reason why every person should troop to Kenyatta National Hospital if we can have efficient public health facilities. The district hospitals in our country are in a sorry state due to theft and wastage of public fund,' Karua said.
Odinga said his CORD would invest in a universal healthcare plan because he believed Kenyans were willing to pay more for better health services.
'We are saying antenatal care services would be free completely. We want HIV services to be free,' Odinga said, adding that his government would borrow from the US universal careplan.
Kiyapi said his government would increase salaries, get doctors to get down to the people. Increase prevention care, food quality and management and stop the high dependency on donors, especially in the treatment of the HIV/AIDS.