With less than 36 days to the election, Kakamega gubernatorial hopefuls had a chance to share their views in a live debate by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation earlier this week.
Five out of the seven candidates faced off in the live debate to persuade Kakamega residents on which candidate would receive their vote to succeed Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
The seven candidates will face off in the contest that has become a major battleground between Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition and Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by Deputy President William Ruto.
Those in the race include current County Senator Cleophas Malala (ANC), Fernandes Barasa (ODM), Cyrus Jirongo (UDP), Samuel Omukoko of Maendeleo Democratic Party, Suleiman Sumba (Kanu) Michael Osundwa (independent) and Austine Otieno (Independent).
For a while, the Kakamega race had been billed as a two-horse race between Malala and Barasa, or so it seemed.
But that was until Ex-Minister, MP and Daniel Moi era politician Cyrus Jirongo threw his hat into the gubernatorial ring.
The populous county with 844,000 voters is among the top four counties in the country after Nairobi, Kiambu and Nakuru, that have the highest number of voters.
KBC’s moderator Victor Oloo put the candidates to task and asked them questions about the state of Kakamega’s economy, the devolved functions: Agriculture, Health, Education, the thorny issue of corruption and the troubled sugar factories within the region.
Here are the highlights:
To start off, Independent candidate Austin Otieno took the stage and accused the current administration led by Oparanya of failing to complete several projects in the region.
Otieno said that if elected he will ensure that all projects started are complete in his first year before undertaking new ones.
“We have lots of projects that have not been completed by the current administration. In my first 100-days, I will not start up new projects worth millions but ensure we first complete the existing ones,” he said.
ODM’s Fernandez Barasa on his part said that during his first 100 days, his first assignment will be to reorganise budget expenditures by having the county assembly approve a supplementary budget.
Kanu’s candidate for the Kakamega gubernatorial race Suleiman Sumba noted that he will use the first 100 days for proper planning, to ensure resources are utilised maximumly and give a better effect in the five years.
Health Care System
The health system has come a long way in the last decade and still remains work in progress.
In the debate, Suleiman Sumba promised to introduce a Kakamega County medical insurance scheme that will caution the high cost of medicine and medical services in the county.
He noted that the County lacked adequate drugs and medical equipment, and the welfare of nurses and doctors have not been well taken care of adding that he will also make Kakamega County Referral Hospital a Cancer treatment centre if elected.
Fernandes Barasa said that he intends to partner with Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology on research, especially on healthcare.
Barasa said that he will go beyond the National Government allocation through partnerships with NGOs to boost the healthcare system.
“I will ensure we have 12 Level 4 hospitals in all sub-counties. I will also improve the current dispensaries into health centres,” said Fernandez Barasa.
The other gubernatorial hopeful Samuel Omukoko said the elevation of the General Hospital into a Level 5 hospital would be important for the County in order to attract people from outside to boost revenue.
To improve food security within the region, the candidates proposed different approaches to make Kakamega a leading food basket.
Fernandes Barasa proposed to increase allocation to agriculture to boost food security. He said that he will allocate more funds to Bukura Agricultural Training Institute as well as increase cash for subsidising farm inputs.
Omukoko noted that the County was not food secure due to subdivision of land that has seen many residents practising subsistence farming.
He also proposed to bring in cooperatives to fund residents to lease larger trucks of land for farming and empower the people of Kakamega County to enter into productive activities such as commercialised farming that would change their lives.
Michael Osundwa noted that to address food security, he will start by soil testing to inform the crops and farm inputs to use and also invest in mechanising agriculture.
Independent candidate Austin Otieno on his part said that he will aim at training farmers, introduce new crop varieties and help farmers use ICT in agriculture for enhanced food security in the County.
On graft, the candidates said that they will close all corruption loopholes if elected.
They regretted that the County had lost huge sums of money through corruption and exuded confidence to deal with the menace to boost revenue.
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