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Wisdom from the Wise One

South South Learning: Kenyan presidential candidates hammered on corruption at debate

NAIROBI — Kenya’s presidential candidates argued over the economy, corruption and foreign policy at the second and final presidential debate Monday in Nairobi. The candidates came out aggressively with just a week to go before the vote.

Eight presidential candidates made their case to the Kenyan people before the March 4 vote and took swipes at each other in the process.

The moderators stayed mostly out of the way while the candidates attacked each other on corruption and land.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga rejected allegations that he protected members of the health ministry suspected of involvement in the questionable distribution of money from a National Hospital Insurance Fund.

“There has still been no concrete evidence provided to show there has been any kind of wrongdoing in the ministry financially," said Odinga. "There’s just been wild allegations and claims.”

Amani coalition candidate Musalia Mudavadi was attacked for his alleged role in a shady land deal involving a Nairobi cemetery.  Paul Muite, founder of the Safina party, was hammered over the Goldenberg scandal which defrauded the government out of billions of dollars in the early 1990s.

Outsider candidate Mohammed Dida, who has earned the most laughs from debate audiences for his bizarre analogies, delivered the line of the night.

“Thank you for your sincerity, pertaining [to] your questions on integrity and leadership," said Dida. "But did you expect a thief to tell you ‘I’ve stolen’?”

Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the richest men in Kenya and the son of the country's first president, was hit hard on the question of land reform.

The moderator, Joe Ageyo, asked Kenyatta how he would tackle the land issue as someone who, as Ageyo put it, owns “half of Kenya.”

“First and foremost, this issue of land is a very emotive issue in Kenya, and unfortunately the manner in which it has been handled has not been very professional or a manner that is really seeking to find solutions," said Kenyatta.

Kenyatta said his party is putting its faith in the newly created Land Commission, an independent body established by the new constitution to resolve land disputes.

Kenyatta initially had declined to participate in the debate after facing tough questioning about his indictment at the International Criminal Court for crimes committed during the violence that followed the last election in 2007.

Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta and Prime Minister Odinga are the frontrunners in this year's presidential race and are virtually tied for support, according to recent opinion polls.---VOA

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