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Candidates face off over education, health and security

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PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI A section of the audience waits for the presidential debate to begin.

PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI A section of the audience waits for the presidential debate to begin.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU ashiundu@ke.nationmedia.com  (email the author)
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Posted  Tuesday, February 12  2013 at  00:30

In Summary

  • They vow to invest more in key sectors so as to improve citizens’ welfare
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Presidential candidates faced off over the security, education and health situation in the country yesterday with less than three weeks to the March 4 polls.

The killing of 42 policemen in Samburu and the slaughter of over 120 people in Tana River was on the lips of the candidates as they discussed provision of security in the country during the debate at Nairobi’s Brookhouse School.

They all said they would invest in security — they will provide better pay for police officers, more cars, helicopters, better guns and other equipment to combat crime. They said they would step up efforts at community policing and also deal with poverty in the country.

Mr Paul Muite (Safina) said he would “take personal charge” and that crime would not be tolerated. He said he would deploy the police and “the army if need be” to send the message that his government would not tolerate criminals.

Best intelligence

Mr Mohammed Abduba Dida (ARK) said Kenya’s intelligence “was the best” and that security officers had failed to do their job because of poor governance.

Prof James ole Kiyiapi (RBK) said in the case of Baragoi and Tana River, he’d have sent top officials in the ministry of Internal Security to the hotspots and told them to stay there until the situation improved.

Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee) said his government would punish crime without fear or favour.

Mr Musalia Mudavadi (Amani) and Ms Martha Karua (Narc-K) said the government could raise money to beef up security. The trick, they noted, was in giving priority to the spending and tackling of the “root causes” of insecurity in the country.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (Cord) said the push for community policing and dealing with poverty in the country were all key to addressing insecurity in the country.

Mr Peter Kenneth (Eagle) said the country should not be thrown into a spin of violence because politicians had failed to achieve their mandates.

The quality of education and the number of teachers in the country and their remuneration also took centre stage at the presidential debate.

All the presidential candidates were concerned that a huge number of children dropped out of school and thus, were consequently condemned to a life of destitution. They pledged to get money to reform the education sector.

“It is one thing to give quantity education; it is another thing about the quality of that education,” said Mr Kenneth as he pledged to reform the education sector from nursery to university.

Prof Kiyiapi, who resigned as Education PS, said there was a huge shortage of teachers in the country, and that no matter how the redistribution was done, it would be impossible to bridge the gap of 100,000 teachers.

Mr Kenyatta said the government could get enough money to hire more teachers, build more classrooms and feed those in school.

Mr Mudavadi said he would raise money from privatisation to equip schools and colleges.

Mr Odinga said more teachers needed to be hired and that if the wastage in government could be plugged then money could go to improve the education in the country.

Mr Odinga said the challenge was keeping tabs on the spending in the coalition government because impunity thrived in some offices.

But Mr Kenyatta hit at Mr Odinga’s office, saying that it was the highest spender in foreign travel. In reply, the PM said that was the case because he had to travel with a larger entourage. In any case, Mr Odinga said, he travelled to negotiate for loans and grants.

Mr Mohammed Abduba Dida (ARK) said the pay disparity in public service was so severe, and lamented that teachers were being paid peanuts.

Mr Muite said corruption was the biggest threat to improved education standards.

On health, Mr Odinga accused big insurance companies of frustrating the government’s attempt to provide affordable healthcare in the country.

The candidates also blamed cartels in the health sector and corruption for poor public health services. They agreed there was a shortage of nurses in the country.

Prof James ole Kiyiapi (RBK) said the government should stop relying on donors in the provision of health care.

Mr Kenneth said the country ought to work on handling lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cancer. “It really pains me that nurses and clinical officers have gone on strike and we don’t treat their cries with urgency,” said Mr Kenneth.

Mr Dida said corruption was the enemy of provision of drugs to hospitals. He gagged the audience when he said that to prevent some health problems, people “should only eat when they’re hungry”.