Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan presidential candidates taunted each other Monday night in the second round of their presidential debate that focused on the economy and land.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his main challenger Uhuru Kenyatta and six others also sparred on who should take responsibility for Kenya's relapse into a dangerous political violence after the 2007 elections.
Odinga insisted that those with huge interests in land could not be trusted to resolve historical injustices over land.
“You cannot allow hyenas to protect your goats,' he said, referring to his main rival's huge interests in land in various parts of Kenya.
“Land was at the centre of the struggle for independence in this country. It is a shame that today you go to the coast and you’ll find people there that are squatters on their own ancestral land. They don’t have titles. The same thing you’ll find in Central Province and also in the Rift Valley,' Odinga said.
Kenyatta, whose family is thought to be the largest single land owner in the country, said his government would deal firmly with the land problem.
'We have never acquired any land illegally,' Kenyatta said.
James ole Kiyiapi, the presidential candidate of Restore and Build Kenya (RBK), said the best way to deal with land in Kenya was to set up clear safeguards on the sale and purchase of land to protect minorities and the poor.
However, Odinga said efforts to address the land question was adequately dealt with through constitutional reforms.
“What we did was to develop a legal framework. Firstly, the new Constitution, which has a very large chapter on land. Secondly we now have national land policing, developed through the stewardship of my Ministry of Land,' he said.
Musalia Mudavadi, whose coalition is rated as the third largest, said the newly-created National Land Commission should deal with the problem.
Paul Muite of Safina Party said his party would cancel 99-year leases granted to international companies and use the land to resettle the landless in the Rift Valley.
Several tracks of land are owned by foreign multinationals investing in farming in the Rift Valley.
Kenya goes to the polls 4 March to elect the president, MPs and others in the first elections to be held under the new constitution, which was passed during the 2010 referendum.
It will also be the first elections to be held since the 2007 polls plunged the once stable East African nation into an orgy of violence that left thousands dead, injured or displaced.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who helped to cobble together the coalition government that restored sanity after the failed 2007 polls, has said the successful conduct of the elections on 4 March is critical to determining whether Kenya can maintain the positive momentum it has garnered since the last polls and achieve its potential.
'The elections must be peaceful, free and fair. They must be conducted in accordance with the rule of law. They must be carried out with integrity, and must reflect the will of the people. Only then will national unity, stability and cohesion be safeguarded,' he wrote on behalf of the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities.